Monday, August 27, 2007

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

Today Husband and I spent the morning and part of the afternoon at the Minnesota State Fair. It's been kind of a tradition for the past few years, although we used to go on Labor Day when everything was winding down. We parked then in the driveway of a friend of his who lived a block away. These days we buy discount tickets and a coupon book, and use the free bus system.

I don't really know why we keep going to the fair every year, but, judging by the crowds, it seems that many other people seem to feel the same way. Even on an overcast, rainy day, there were big crowds milling around, eating cheese curds and mini donuts, anything on a stick, trying to win prizes on the Midway, listening to local folk, country, bluegrass and retro 50's bands (i.e. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap), and listening to sales pitches for new inventions and entering drawings for wonderful prizes. A lot of the booths return to same place every year, which, if the State Fair were a church, would be criticized as empty ritual. To be fair, there are always a few new displays as well -- but just a few.

We came in hungry, looking for breakfast, but had to stop in the Miracle of Birth Center, where two baby lambs had been born earlier that morning, and (so it seemed) millions of piglets. There were also fuzzy chicks and ducks to touch. This is perhaps my favorite part of the fair.

Afterwards we ate a somewhat greasy breakfast at Al's Diner (but the coffee was delicious) after which we found the Farmer's Union Building, which is very close to both the DFL and IR booths. (DFL stands for Democratic-Farmer-Labor and IR stands for Independent Republican. The Minnesota Democratic party is actually a merger with a popular third party of the 1930s -- the Farmer Labor Party. This always puzzled me as all of the farmer I knew were Republican.) There was not a lot of traffic at the party booths, this not being an election year. I saw that Al Franken has T-shirts, but they are not funny. I suppose he is trying not to be so funny. But it made me miss Paul Wellstone. I actually bought one of his T-shirts, because it was so uncommonly clever (lots of faces, I remember, with the caption "many voices, one message").

We also had to stop in at the International Bazaar, where exotic goods are sold, and take a look under the grandstand, where everything is sold. We ate Chicago dogs, onion rings and pizza, and stopped in at Heritage Square. Often they have good local talent like the bluegrass band Monroe Crossing. Once we even happened in on Riders in the Sky! But unfortunately, today it was a local comedy duo called Tina and Lena, telling jokes in a fake Norwegian accent.

We didn't quite get to all the State Fair Shrines. We did not eat mini-donuts this year, and missed the 4-H display. We didn't get to the Mighty Midway (although that has never been my favorite part of the fair). We did see the most amazing variety of T-shirts (my favorite, "cleverly disguised as a responsible adult"); we didn't eat anything on a stick this year. We don't have quite the walking stamina we once did. And we don't have as much discretionary time, either.

But I kind of miss the days of soaking my dirty, aching feet in a bucket, after a long day collecting promotional information, free pencils, keychains, fans, and informational booklets. I miss signing up for all the prizes, in those days thinking I actually had a chance to win one. I miss the thrill of actually seeing what one of my favorite radio voices looked like. I think I go, at least in part, to recapture just a little of the wonder of my childhood.

And to watch the people. That too.


kim-d said...

I haven't been to The Fair for a few years, so had the good idea Sunday afternoon that I would try to find someone and go. Luckily for my pocketbook, both people I asked were busy. I go for the food--NUM--and the people-watching. UNPARALLELED people-watching! The only other place even remotely close for good people-watching is the airport.

P.S. an after-thought said...

We went this year too; haven't been for decades. We missed some of the things you mentioned, but we did sit for a couple of hours in the colliseum to see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride, plus a few of the horse judging events, which were part of that ticket price.

The Musical Ride was sort of like syncronized swimming on horses.

We decided to eat elsewhere. Didn't do the greasy food.

Diane said...

We just saw the Mounted Police out on the street. they looked impressive.

"PS" said...

Growing up we went to our State Fair multiple times each year: the band, 4-H, to take exhibits and pick them up. My dad's favorite was the chocolate dipped ice cream bars. Wonderful trip down memory lane. Thank you

Grandmère Mimi said...

Diane, I had a rather lengthy comment typed, but I lost it. I like reading about your visit to the state fair, because it is so outside my experience of growing up in New Orleans. I remember seeing the movie "State Fair" way back when, with its wonderful songs by Rogers and Hammerstein.

The closest I came to a state fair is the LSU livestock show, which my husband took me to when we were in graduate school there, before we were married. Not quite the same thing.

Grandpère showed cows from grade school through high school with the 4-H Club and even won prizes. What an unlikely couple we are, but I believe that God sometimes draws unlikely people together for a purpose.

This is not what I first posted, but it will do.

Mrs. M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. M said...

This is great. Out little town fair just wrapped up last weekend, and we go every year, too. It's the baby animals that get me, I'll admit it.

(PS-- I'll be holding you in God's light re: your issue of procrastination/fear/faith.)

Diane said...

Mimi, it was great...I do think I like the animals at the fair the best, reminds me of my rural roots, or at least my mothers'...although the contests are more fun if you know the young people!

Diane said...

Mrs. m -- thanks for your prayers!

Pastor Eric said...

I haven't been to the state fair in about five years and I miss it. It looks like that I will miss it again this year. Labor Day weekend in Sioux Falls, SD is the Life Light Christian music festival -- A free outdoor festival. That is hard to miss. I will have to do some better planning next year and get to the fair during the week.