There are two types of people in Minnesota. No, not Norwegians and Swedes. In fact, German is the ancestry of the largest percentage of Minnesotans. If you want to get a laugh from a Minnesota joke, it has to be about Sven, Lena and Ole. Klaus, Lisle and Fritz won’t get so much as a snicker.
But I digress…
The two types of people are those that consider going to the Minnesota State Fair an imperative, and those who can take it or leave it. I’ve never met anyone who hates the Fair; it’s either “I LOVE it!”, or “Eh…” accompanied by a shoulder shrug.
As a member in good standing of the first group, I simply can’t understand the second. For them, it’s just another summertime event that they may or may not attend. For me, it’s an annual ritual, signifying the end of another all-too-brief summer. Ever since my family moved to Minnesota from Alaska, we attended the Fair. As a family in the early years, but after my sister left home, and because my father was not really a true Fair Fan, it was often Mom and me.
We would set out early, taking the bus from South Minneapolis to downtown, transferring to the St. Paul bus, then transferring again at Marshall & Snelling for the bus to the Fairgrounds. We would stay all day, then either Dad would pick us up, or we would retrace our bus adventure to home.
Not much at the Fair has changed over the years; at least, not much of consequence. That’s one of the things the non-enamored find problematic with the Fair, and what the rest of us love about it. Sure, Machinery Hill ain’t what it used to be, and you can no longer meet friends under the giant Lee Jeans (or, as we called it, “Tom’s Dad’s Pants”). But you can still see the butter heads and the Now Sow. Little Irvy’s gone (“If he’s not real, we’ll give you the truck!”) and the Midway no longer has Club Lido or the Monkey Races, but there’s still the horse barn, the cow barn, the all-you-can-drink milk stand and the crop art.
And then there’s the fine dining opportunities. All the fair classics one expects: Pronto Pups and Corn Dogs (beware, first-timers, there IS a difference!), Foot Longs, Cheese Curds, Corn on the Cob, Pork Chop On A Stick. There is also more exotic fare: Bull Bites, Crocodile, Gizmos, numerous things on sticks, numerous things deep-fried. You want it, you can probably find it. For me, it’s the Creamsicle Malt.
SInce 1859, with the exception of only 5 years, the Minnesota State Fair has been the traditional end of summer celebration. The Fair runs for 10 days, ending on Labor Day, and the majority of schools start classes the next day. Arguments rage as to which state has the best State Fair, but in terms of daily attendance, Minnesota leads the nation. And I’ve visited some other state fairs. Nice, but I’ll take mine, thank you.
I’ve always measured the end of the year by two events: the State Fair and the World Series. Both indicate that Winter is just around the corner, green turns to red and orange, then all too quickly to white. And it will be many long months before color and baseball return.
So, as the 2011 Fair opens this week, I look forward to another familiar yet always fascinating visit…or two. Or three. And for those of you on the fence, give it another chance. If you need a companion, I’ll meet you at the Giant Slide.