Going to the Minnesota State Fair has become a yearly ritual for scores of Minnesotans as well as a few strays who motor in from Wisconsin and the Dakotas.
Most fairgoers make one full day of it. But some actually live there in campers for the Fair’s entire 12-day run. Others attend multiple times, some boast of coming every single day.
Why has the Fair become such a big draw?
Surely not because of the throngs of people generated by this huge influx, all out there trudging the grounds. Nor the sticky hot weather that engulfs our state during its run in late August and early September. Nor even the long walk to get in if you park free on the street and the long walk back lugging the weighty Vita Mix juicer you purchased in the grandstand.
All of this is overlooked. People come to The Fair because it is a place to have fun. Pure fun. And a huge variety of exhibits and experiences await there to be enjoyed. Many will make you laugh.
There’s the horse show, the Christmas tree display, the beer gardens, the Hamline Dining Hall ham loaf, the beautiful fancy work in creative activities building, all the crazy food-on-a-stick. Even the massive 1,400 pound prize boar in the Swine Barn.
And of course there is the people-watching. The people-watching at the State Fair is unsurpassed!
The Fair is not only intended for only farmers and rural people. There is something there for everyone. Interested in politics? Go talk to whomever is running for office from your party in their special booth. Care to shop for jewelry and clothing, head for the International Bazaar. Like the thrill rides: hit the Midway. Is art your thing, visit the Fine Arts Building for a juried display. Looking for ethnic eats? There are gyros and falafel, and even lefsa in the huge sprawling Food Building. I heard a rumor there might even be lutefisk this year!
Many city parents bring their children to the Miracle of Birth barn to give them the experience of actually seeing a calf born right before their eyes. (Although this caused my 9-year-old nephew Erik to faint!)
Dog fanciers can pet a wide variety of breeds in the Dog Building. Vocalists can join in the daily sing-along. Perhaps participate in the rooster-crowing contest!
A friend of mine says he loves the Fair because it is the “last blast before the winter fast”: the final outdoor party before the snow flies.
Another friend says it’s like having to an annual reunion with an old friend.
As for old-fashioned small town me, it’s because of the sheer unadulterated wholesomeness of the place. So much entertainment today has become overtly sexual and crude, but at the Fair, you’ll still find “Princess Kay of the Milky Way,” Four-H kids showing their animals, and an amateur talent show for Minnesota youth.
And I like that there is a “sameness” there. I know I’ll find the same Proto Pup stand on the same corner it’s always been on, and made with the same yummy batter. It’s a sameness that bespeaks continuity.
Living in a society that is always in flux, always changing, it’s comforting to know that our State Fair remains the same year after year, decade after decade.
I wonder if that could be another reason we all go there? Whatever, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess.