August 29, 2024

Oh, the humanity! Or, A Day at the Great Minnesota Get-Together

Last weekend it was the brits, this weekend it was the 'rents. Mom with sis in tow came stayed a night in the big city, and yesterday we all went to the Minnesota State Fair. I needn't introduce this event to my Minnesota readers, but for those of you who may not know, the Minnesota State Fair is a big fucking deal. It's only been recently that I've realized state fairs in nearby states like Wisconsin and Michigan just aren't that popular. But ours is a truly monumental event of gluttony and hucksterism, the only moment in Minnesota's calendar when we actually choose to spend a day packed in like sardines with our fellow brethren, when we rejoice in the corny characteristics that make us the equivalent of America's country bumpkin cousins.


No, really. This is a big deal. Everyone goes. All the news stations broadcast from the fair for the ten days or so its on. So do most of the radio stations. Garrison Keilor is doing A Prairie Home Companion from there tonight. All the political candidates show up. John Kerry was there on Thursday. Over ten billion corndogs are consumed in this, Minnesota's saturnalia.

So me, mom, and sis got up early (of course) and decided to take the buses from downtown Minneapolis (since parking is horrendous over in St. Paul near the fair). As you might expect, at nine in the morning on a Saturday the only folk going to the State Fair are the crazy die hards. One woman spends all day every day at the fair. She was a wealth of info. A guy who considered the fair a better time than the Great Wall of China talked my mom's ear off. Some oldie-oldsters in overalls and trucker hats rode in silence, looking as though they had gotten on the bus in Stearns County rather than Nicollet Mall. A row erupted between a slightly crazy guy who spit as he talked and the bus driver over what sort of discount could be got from showing one's transfer at the gate.

But we endured, and arrived in the State Fair around 10:30, as the sun was starting to break through the overcast skies. Now, I must be honest with you. I may write like I am an aloof hipster who only enjoys the fair for it's 'ironic' aspects. You may think I feel somehow above it. But alas, I must admit that as a kid the Minnesota State Fair was the highlight of my summer. You see, I grew up in the country, and we rarely made it down to Minneapolis, and so when we did it was a big deal, because it was such a huge city. I was also a 4-H kid. 4-H is kind of like Scouts for anyone who lives in the country. It's designed to interest kids in agriculture and livestock, but really it's to keep kids who live out in Bumfuck, Minnesota, busy during the summer months. I raised turkeys and ducks and other poultry but also collected insects, rocks, plaster casts of animal prints, grew flowers and vegetables. But my pride and joy was my mammal skull collection. When I was about twelve years old, I had a kick-ass collection of mammal skulls (mammals from Minnesota), and I won a grand champion at the Minnesota State Fair for them! So the Fair for me was a kick ass place to spend a few days each summer, filled with big city brass and the glory of a purple ribbon. And as a kid I got to know all of the Fair's quirks--where to find the bucket of free carrots. Where the free milk barn was. What the best rides for the best value were.

My tour around the fairgrounds yesterday followed that old path of my youth. My sister and I went up in the Space Tower, a rickety wooden revolving observation deck that offered some great views of the fair, allowing us to plot out our route. Next stop was the agriculture building to see the giant pumpkins and the crop art.


Crop art is art made from seeds and such. This is what the fair is all about, folks: Hello Kitty and the trials of Herakles, depicted in seeds.

Then it was off to the 4-H Building to see what the kids are up to these days. I was a bit disappointed. No mammal skull collections, but some good bug collections that would have kicked my ass. I don't think I ever brought my entymology projects to the State Fair because the kids in the Southwest part of the state always had bigger and better bugs.


Of course, we ate a bunch of crap. I myself had twenty-four inches of hot dog, and sampled cheese curds, a gyro, some curly fries, and shaved ice. At the State Fair, the thing to do is to deep fry something and then skewer it. Each year there's some new disgusting concoction someone sicko has decided to hawk at the fair. This year I tried a deep-fried twinkie on a stick, which was, as you might imagine, disgusting. You can also get egg rolls on a stick, ostrich teriyaki on a stick, deep-fried aligator, cheese sticks, snickers bars, pizza, all deep fried and stuck on a stick for your gluttonous pleasure. So it comes as no surprise that when we had our cholesterol and blood pressure and blood sugar tested at a health fair, my blood sugar was so high my blood could have been mistaken for strawberry sauce (but let it be known my total cholesterol is only 149!).

The day did grow long. My mom and my sister are of the ilk that when something is free, you get it. Not because you need it or want it, but because it's free. So while they frowned at the fact I spent $2 on a Kerry/Edwards button, they were constantly running around getting bags of crap from the vendors that increasingly have taken over the shady streets of the fairgrounds. Buttons, pens, flyswatters, stupid mousepads, paper fans, coupons, Anacondas movie posters...enough already! I got tired waiting in line while they stood around waiting for free samples of spam. They found it odd I didn't share in their enthusiasm for free shit.


We ended the day in the animal barns, which are my favorite part, actually. There's something incredibly romantic about young kids growing up on farms and taking their cattle to the big city fair. I always had this complex as a 4-Her, that I wasn't a real farm kid because we didn't raise animals for a living. These kids come from the sticks with their sheep, cattle, horses and pigs and the stakes can be quite high, as auctions usually follow. The barns are noisy, stinky places where you have to constantly watch your step as kids are leading their animals to and from the judging areas. The ceilings soar. City slickers mix with country kids catching naps in the hay. The whole scene is so very Minnesotan. Of course, the barns killed our appetites, and we began to notice how sore our feet were. It was time to head home.

See more photos here.

Posted by Jason at August 29, 2024 12:23 PM

Ohhh, I can't wait to go on Tuesday! You've whet my appetitie... I'm not going to eat until then.

One question, though -- are there tractor pulls? I can't imagine a state fair in ANY state without tractor pulls.

Posted by: Aaron at August 30, 2024 10:14 AM

You have done more justice for the fair than the Breeders' song about it. Alot more. Actually, the song kind of sucks, but it's something when Kim Deal makes a big stink about it. My favorite part is visiting the livestock pens. Made me jealous that Ellanoise's fair ain't as cool.

Posted by: mike at September 1, 2024 09:45 AM

I was afraid that your entry might convince me that I need to go to the State Fair for the first time. Taking one look at that fist picture, with the sea of chunky Midwesternity, reaffirmed my belief that the S.F. is unadulterated evil on a stick. Thanks! I'll just say I waded through the masses vicariously through you.
And I had to laugh... "Obviously, cows need to be milked twice a day"? I must be more of an urban homo than I thought, 'cuz I had no idea.

Posted by: couchmobile at September 4, 2024 02:23 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?