I’m not entirely sure which of my friends and relatives like the Minnesota State Fair and which don’t. In some cases it is quite clear. If you are my facebook friend, you know that John Funk thinks the State Fair is what Hell would be like, and Stephanie Zvan revels in being a Bad Minnesotan because she does not participate in The Great Minnesotan Get Together (as it is called). If you are NOT my Facebook friend, then click here.

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I can fully understand why people would not like the State Fair. In fact, I’m rather surprised that I like it. This is surely the sort of thing that I would not normally like, yet I do. On reflection, the reasons turn out to be rather personal. So, if you don’t want to explore this personal stuff, don’t go below the fold where I tell you what those reasons are.

I don’t think I went to the State Fair the first year I moved to Minnesota, but the second year I lived here I moved to one block away from the fair site, and thereafter it was kinda hard to miss. Julia, who was very little at the time, loved the State Fair mainly because of the kiddie rides, some of which were actually too large for her at the time.

Over the years since then, she and I have returned every year to the Fair, and visited the rides every time. Julia is now a tall lanky teenager taller than all of her relatives except three (me, her step-grandfather, and Amanda’s brother … well, maybe she’s not taller than Amanda yet, but in a few seconds she will be, I’m sure). So, for me, the annual visit to the State Fair has been one of observing her yearly progress of height, physical presence and ability, personal confidence, and adventure-ness as she’s gone from riding some of the kiddy rides to all of the adult rides to becoming bored with everything including the rides.

I remember the first year we went to the big-kids (and adults) ride section, which is way on the opposite side of the fairgrounds from the kiddy rides. We went on one ride, and were looking for a second. Julia was just on the line … you know, that line you have to be taller than to get on the rides … but she was so skinny that from certain angles she was invisible. As we approached one of the rides — a particularly dangerous looking contraption in which the riders were loosely strapped into inadequate chairs and hurled in a giant overhead circle presumably to their untimely death– the man operating the ride looked at Julia, and made eye contact with me, and with a gesture visible only to me clearly indicated that we should just keep walking. So we did.

There were other visits to the fair back in those days, with friends and loved ones, which I’ll remember fondly, but the company was more important than the fair and I don’t think those events had a lot to do with my feelings for the fair now.

But then one day I met Amanda, and our relationship developed over several months during which time Julia was overseas. Julia came back shortly before the fair started that year, and going to the fair together was one of the first things we did as a nascent family. Subsequently we’ve gone every year, and now Amanda has taken part in watching the whole growing up thing.

And, during that first visit, we went on the Crazy Mouse ride, and bought the picture they provide. Every year since then we’ve done the same thing. If we ever want to know how long we’ve been together, we just count the pictures on the shelf. They are not all good pictures. In one, my head is just a glare of light, and in another the car we are riding in is turned almost backwards. Each time the picture was bad, the person who sells them refused to sell it to us. We had to explain the whole thing about how we have a picture from every year, and no, we are not getting back on the damn ride, and so on and so forth, and finally, we get her to sell us the picture.

There are a few other regular things we like to see or do most if not all years. The big slide. The big pig. The butter heads. The ed building, where I coax Amanda to talk to the Gusties even tough she is shy about it, but once she does it she’s there for a half hour. The creationist science posters. The butterfly house. And the Crazy Mouse ride.

I don’t eat food on a stick unless it is in Thai resturant.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    August 30, 2009

    No, no. I don’t go to the county fairs and, in fact, tend to forget they exist. I’ve been to the State Fair several times, either because someone like Beausoleil is playing at one of the small venues or to attend some political event. Then I go see the art, including the seed art, and find out what miracle products everyone needs right now at some great bundled discount (because it’s fascinating to see how they sell them).

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 30, 2009

    OK, so maybe you’re not such a bad Minnesotan yet then, eh?

  3. #3 Stephanie Z
    August 30, 2009

    Depends on whom you ask. State Fair = ag for an awful lot of people. The fact that I don’t go visit the future meat may disqualify me.

  4. #4 John F
    August 30, 2009

    Actually, you’d have to be MY Facebook friend to know that I think the State Fair is what Hell would be like…

    …but it’s nonetheless an accurate representation of my opinion.

  5. #5 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 30, 2009

    I went yesterday for a while. Gave the kids each a few bucks and they went on their way with a few friends. I stopped and talked with John Marty (who agreed to do a piece for QM, btw,) Dan Powers who is running for the DFL congressional nod in the 2nd District next year. I went and saw some cows and pigs, and perhaps the largest udder I have ever seen in my life. Poor think had to walk bow-legged, I could only imagine the chafing and wondered at the evolutionary adaptation that led bovines to have their udders so close to their back legs.

    Then the kids called and said to meet at the entrance because they were bored. I stopped on the way and chatted with Frannie Franken for a bit. She’s so cool, she is an added bonus to Al being in the Senate.

    That was it. Lots of crowds, which puts me in a similar mind as John F. at the State Fair, almost. Some people just stop in the middle of the street and there is a great shuffling to get around them. Lots of bored farm kids playing cards.

    My favorite, though, was a horse stall with a blanket that said “The Rubber Rose Ranch.” The Cowgirls weren’t around, but I would have loved to have met Jellybean.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    August 30, 2009

    I first read that as “The Rubber Hose Ranch” for some reason.

  7. #7 Alan Kellogg
    August 30, 2009

    Hypothesis: You, Greg Laden, react strongly to happiness pheromones. You get a ton of happiness pheromones at state fairs, so you like going to them. Cats find you a push over because of your sensitivity to happiness pheromones.

  8. #8 Kammy
    August 30, 2009

    I spent today there. I had way too many things on my to-do list, so I only went because I was invited and I had a new pair of sneaks that needed scuffing up.

    Had a great time!! Part of it was the company I was keeping (Carrie & Tim), part of it was watching my kiddo enjoy the butterfly house and that skypod ride thingie, part of it was dropping my no sugar rule long enough to have one single mini donut, part of it was the guy who looked at me then muttered to his wife about how many bizarre people were there (that was the funniest part of the day), but most of all it was the people watching. :)

    My sneaks are well on there way to looking fashionably worn, and my feet are sore. All in all I’m calling it a good day. :)

  9. #9 OriGuy
    August 30, 2009

    Did you see Obama’s birth certificate in seed art when you were there?

    I went to the Minnesota State Fair once when I was visiting. All I remember is the little donuts.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    August 31, 2009

    Kammy … ah, I know you live in Uptown and everything, but I never thought of you as … oh, never mind. Just tell me one thing: The guy who said that … was he wearing a red flannel shirt, a McCulloch chain saw cap and Carhart work jeans? And heading for the tractor and combine building?

    Maybe you people from Minneapolis should get a permit before going over to Saint Paul…

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    August 31, 2009

    Oh, I will be looking for that seed art for sure…

  12. #12 Karen Burke
    August 31, 2009

    I’m going tomorrow with my 6 year old! I love the State Fair and haven’t missed a summer since I moved here from Toronto in 2001. I find it a fascinating day of people watching. It really highlights the *Americanadian* differences.

  13. #13 CyberLizard
    August 31, 2009

    I don’t know about state fairs, but our county fairs suck! Ours is in the parking lot of a mall. Ooooh, exciting.

  14. #14 Left_Wing_Fox
    August 31, 2009

    I’ve been pretty spoiled by Edmonton’s Klondike Days, which is a combination of massive state fair, international trade expo, music festival, casino and temporary old-north-west themed amusement park. Last time I was there, I just missed a Wierd Al concert and got to try “Deep Fried Coca-Cola” (Coke syrup-flavored funnel cake batter, deep fried and served with Coke syrup and powdered sugar in a big coke cup.).

    These days, I go to the local Ag Fair in the summer long enough to browse through the stalls, see the happy screaming people, sample one or two impossibly greasy or sweet foods, then leave.

  15. #15 SplendidMonkey
    August 31, 2009

    I think the key to enjoying the fair is to find some quiet spots to chill for a while. For us yesterday it was the Heritage Square stage for a fiddle contest and a couple of cool Schell’s, and watching a free horse show. The new fun thing this year was Wax Hands. The kids get to dip their hands in molten wax and take home the result.