It took us two years to return to the Minnesota State Fair. Last time, in 2015, it was miserably hot and our experience was definitely impacted by the insanity in the number of people, over-stimulation of sound and sight, and just not knowing what the hell was going on at any given time.
This year, we had a much better time of it. The weather cooperated with us, only sprinkling for 30 minutes or so.
Becky here. I think Joel is understating this. By the end of the day, I actually understood what was so awesome about the fair. I actually “got it.” NOW I understand why people go every year and take time off during the week to attend the fair. I’ll even go so far as to state: I am a fan of the Minnesota State Fair!
We once again did the park and ride option. Travelling to our local bus stop. However, leaving after noon left us with no actual park options. The main ramp was full, a secondary lot across the highway was full. All surrounding streets had no parking signs. A line of cars stretched from the ramp to Ridgedale mall. Basically, it had become a park and hike and ride.
But we eventually found a spot to park after driving around the area for 30 minutes.
Most people will think we were out of our minds to go to the fair 1) on a Saturday 2) after noon. But this was because of me. I don’t have a bunch of PTO, so we had to go on the weekend. We went later because I wanted to be able to stay long enough to see the fireworks they do every night after the grandstand show. I knew we were in trouble when I saw a long line of cars parked a good mile away along the highway leading to the parking ramp.
We got to the fair in time for our first goal, to watch the parade. I hunted down our first food for the day, a big ass turkey leg, while Becky staked out our claim on a curb for parade viewing. There were an unsettling number of large cow statues in this parade.
I’m not sure why I NEEDED to see the parade. I think it was the marching bands. I’m a sucker for a good marching band. Always have been. However, the place we managed to sit down was a spot where all the bands marked time instead of performing. I was highly disappointed. However, the turkey leg and curiosity about exactly HOW many cows were in this thing made it well worth the effort it took to get there on time.
After the parade, we ducked into the Ag building to see ginormous vegetables, flowers and crop art.
You wouldn’t believe the line for seeing art made out of seeds. I’m not sure if it was actually slow or if it just felt like infinity because we were behind some ultra hipster dude who loved the sound of his own opinions.
It was really strange. I can handle waiting in line behind a hipster; it happens all the time because the events we go to for authentic fun are the ones hipsters attend ironically. I was so desperate to not hear him, I turned around and started talking to the girls behind us because they were discussing Game of Thrones. Eventually we made it to the seed art.
But we got to the front and saw a lot of great art. Prince had a good showing, and lots of people went political because how can you not be influenced by the garbage fire of politics that consumes our every day now?
We went to the creative activities and annex building because we had a coupon for Jacobs Lefse. I love lefse. When I was a kid we only had it during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so when I moved to Boston, I couldn’t come home for the holidays, so I ordered Jacob’s Lefse to be delivered, and I was excited to learn it’s as good now as it was 13 years ago. When did I get so old? Besides the lefse, I loved this building because all the crafts that our grandparents and great-grandparents did, like rosemaling and crocheting and tatting, have been passed down to this generation and shown as art. The unique part about it is that some of the artists were able to make their “old fashioned” art form into their own unique world perspective. For example, there was a cross stitch piece that had a hilarious joke on it that Joel and I can’t remember right now, but that spoke to a current political truth. It was engaging. I’m definitely going to spend more time in this building next year. Below is a sculpture of a flying pig using skis to help him along. I just liked it; the sculpture made me happy.
From there we made our way over to the 4H building in time for the 4H Musical.
We went to the 4H musical because I had heard on an Art Hounds piece that covered the State Fair, I only heard the middle of the second art hound (crop art), but heard the entire third one. This is where we first heard about the 4H musical. Feel free to listen to the description by a local comedian. I just knew we had to go.
This was my favorite thing of the fair.
The 4H Musical is basically a musical review. They do about 10-20 songs and tie them together with a vague story about going to a successful person’s house for a party and everyone wondering why they were there and how the successful person became so rich. I don’t think we ever find out the second part, but the reason they were all there is they helped out the successful person at some point in their lives. So at heart it was someone well off who recognized the particular advantages they were given by others and wanted to give back.
When asked why I liked it, I don’t know how to describe the particular flavor of awesome that this musical is. The singing was ok. The dancing actually impressive for how much of it there was that they had to learn and perform. The story pretty confusing at times. The performance though, was divine. These kids were so utterly sincere in their cheesiness, it was like watching Disney kid show actors in real life, like watching a 90s toy commercial kid still at it 4 years later in his enthusiasm. You couldn’t help but be sucked into this event as a spectator. Like the answer to happiness is just making happy facial expressions that in a different context would be the most disturbing thing in a scary movie.
While I did enjoy the musical, I made a mistake before hand by reading the program. The musical is put on by a program called Minnesota 4H State Arts-In, which “is a life-changing experience for youth 15 to 19 years old from across the state. While at State Arts-In, participants develop life long skills, and have the opportunity to work closely with professionals who serve as mentors. Each year, 4H State Arts-In youth perform at least 35 full shows to more than 12,000 audience members.” I then looked at the names of the performers and the counties they come from. All of the counties surround the metro area. Joel and I are from very small counties out in southwestern Minnesota, so when reading about the statement youth “across the state,” I felt like, what a bunch of liars. Then to have the musical be about arts-privileged metro area kids who live so close to art programs thinking “why am I at a rich person’s party” really left a bad taste in my mouth. Why aren’t rural kids able to get this exposure? But the dancing, the length of time these kids danced impressed me because I know all the hard work they had to have put in. But I do charge this Minnesota 4H Arts-In organization (not the kids) to reach out to rural communities for their next one.
We also stopped at the DFL tent to get some buttons for a friend.
This was the first time we had a chance to see how awesome “the Great Minnesota Get Together” can be. There were so many booths representing so many different beliefs. But nobody was fighting. Instead we were all just people eating really bad food for us that tasted so good. It was nice to see human beings instead of divided sects.
We were on our way to the horse arena when the rain started coming down. It had been threatening all day, but it only appeared to be temporary. We ducked into the dairy barn we were passing and wouldn’t have stopped at otherwise. It ended up being a lucky occurrence, because we found my favorite food of the fair this year. The special was a Pie in the Sky sundae, with lemon curd, dark chocolate syrup and graham cracker pie crust. I would never have put lemon and chocolate together, but OH MY GOD this was good.
The rain ended and we got to the arena in time for a horse competition. This particular contest was for teams of 8 horses pulling a wagon with two riders. It’s hard to describe how impressive these teams were in navigating the arena one way, then the other, with hardly enough room to turn around, particularly when they had all 8 teams come in for the results (that’s 68 horses!). These magnificent horses were dressed to the nines as well, to the point we wondered how much time it took for one horse to get ready, and how many people were involved in this grooming.
Once the competition was done, we stuck around for the next one a bit, sharing an awesome burger. By then we were exhausted. We’d been at the fair for about 6 hours at that point and were just done. But not before grabbing a bucket of cookies, because you have to get the cookies. The line for cookies was as large as ever, and as worth it as ever. This is the only line I know is worth it.
Our second fair experience overall was much better than the first. I think being veterans of the fair helped – we had a good lay of the land and less shock at the over-stimulation of being with so many people in such a confusing space.
Like I said before, I get it now. It’s really cool to see what awesome art and produce and animals make the trek all the way to the fair. But more importantly, it was just really nice to be with Minnesotans whose common goal was “get the cookies.” I wouldn’t say I found my people, but I will say I’m a bit prouder to be a Minnesotan.
Here is one last picture I took, of Joel sleeping on my back pack on the bus ride home.
See ya at the fair next year 😉