It's that time of year, as summer begins to turn to autumn, and the kids go back to school, for the Great Minnesota Get-Together. No, I'm not talking about the Republican National Convention. I'm talking about the Minnesota State Fair, which ended it's 12-day run on Labor Day. To those of you who may not be familiar with the Minnesota State Fair, it's one of the largest State Fairs in the country, and usually a subject of immense pride for Minnesotans. According to Wikipedia, that venerated fount of knowledge, it's probably the largest in average daily attendance, as some 1.6 million Minnesotans attended this year's Fair. (Okay, some Wisconsinians and Iowans probably snuck in too.)
The Minnesota State Fair boasts more farm animals than you can shake a stick at, rides for all the kiddies, exhibits of everything from prize-winning honey to crop art, and any kind of fried food you can imagine, usually placed on a stick. (I'm not kidding, there's even deep-fried candy bars on a stick. Ew.) I've been going to the Fair since I was a kid, so it's a tradition that is deeply ingrained in me. I love the Fair. I know, it doesn't change much from year to year. Yes, the corn dogs and pronto pups still taste the same, yes, I've seen all the same Heritage Square buildings for years, but we have to go see them again this year! The Fair does change, it's just very gradual. When I was a kid, there were all kinds of big tractors in the area called "Machinery Hill." And you could actually climb up and sit in them! How cool! Now, there's still "Machinery Hill," but all the big tractors are gone. About the biggest thing you can sit in is a John Deere Gator. Wow. The gradual changing of the Fair is a little bit like life itself. Life usually doesn't change radically, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, not day to day, but year to year.
The Fair is really the last hurrah of summer, before kids have to go back to school, before all the leaves change and winter sets in. Here in Minnesota we have hot, humid summers, and long, cold, snowy winters, and not much inbetween. So you have to make the most of the nice weather. And the weather here is always a topic of conversation. Usually because something weird is happening, like it's snowing in May, or something like that.
The best time to go to the Fair is early in the morning, before the crowds get there. It's quiet, almost peaceful. And then you look out at the streets at about 2PM, and it's just a teeming mass of people. Give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning for fried foods...
This year at the Fair I petted a donkey, saw a 500-pound pumpkin, saw crop art bashing Republicans, ate a corn dog, (they're better than Pronto Pups) drank a milkshake from the dairy building, saw goats chewing on their metal pens, saw the biggest boar in the state, (over 1,000 pounds) saw a breathtaking photo of the 35-W bridge collapse in the Fine Arts building, walked a kajillion miles, cursed huge crowds of slow-moving people with strollers...where else could I do all this? Only at the Fair.