The day arrived for Becky and I to attend the Minnesota State Fair for the first time. We agreed that the best way to showcase the journey would be chronological. Enjoy…
2 p.m.: We arrive at the Park and Ride along I-394. In addition to our first Fair, this was also our first bus ride. I’d love to ride the bus to work in the morning, but there is no easy route for commuting unless you work in the downtown metro area. For the fair, we were able to spend the ride going through our blue book of coupons to mark the possible uses. Parking was free, the round trip bus ride was $5 for each of us. The coupon book was another $5. We made that money back before the end of the day.
The bus also gets to drive to the fair on special back roads that only public transportation vehicles get to use. So I highly recommend it. Though be warned that your trip back to the lot at the end of the night may be a lot more crammed with drunk, high young people.
2:30 p.m.: We arrive at the fair in the large bus parking area, make note of where we are so we can find it again at the end of the night. Last bus is at midnight, so we have to keep that in mind.
2:33 p.m.: Becky takes my picture in front of the fair sign. I take another one by a different fair sign for good measure.
2:40 p.m.: I get a map and the day’s schedule from an info booth. We sit and slather on sunscreen.
2:45: First instance of overwhelmed-ness. My lizard brain fights for control, wanting to flee the scene. So. Many. People.
It’s hard to fully describe this rush of stimulation. Our first goal was the dairy barn. Becky wanted to see the butter sculptures of the dairy princesses. She’d always heard how awesome it is. We also loved the movie, “Butter,” which has a lot of butter carving in it.
No matter where you look at 3 p.m., there are throngs and throngs of people, slowly ambling down streets. A ride swings people from 10 stories up down over the street, which is so incredibly unnerving to watch. I try to ignore the screams.
Everything smells deep fried and manure-y.
I miss air conditioning.
We stop at a booth after a block to get water and lemonade. I guzzle down my share nearly immediately. Becky asks if we are going to die.
“No, hon. You never hear about people dying at the fair. We’re OK.”
At that moment, an ambulance slowly pushes through the crowd. I silently curse it for its timing.
3:15 p.m.: We reach the Dairy Building after a stop for an egg roll (OK) on the way to fortify ourselves. I had hoped, futilely it turns out, that the building would be air conditioned what with the butter and whatnot. It was not.
It was a throng of crazy, with a shit ton of people lining up like cattle to get an ice cream cone. We skipped that and headed right for the butter art. We found this:
A level of creepy we were not prepared to handle. Becky heads out the nearest door to get some air, but it isn’t a real exit, so we have to head back into the building once the nausea passes and push our way back through to the fair.
4:00 p.m.: We sit on a bench across the street and chow down on a 15-inch beef corn dog. ($3 saved with coupon). Best way to attack it, since the stick goes all the way through, is to just bite at one side at a time, then the other side. This is my new wisdom, imparted to you. Go forth, and eat corndogs!
4:30 p.m.: Our strength en-doggened, we head across the street to the agriculture building. We find the seed art – which is as awesome as it sounds boring. Lots of great pieces, made entirely out of different seeds.
I also came across this unsettling Tuscan Raider themed scarecrow.
4:50 p.m.: Back out into the wild. We make our way down the block to the coliseum, but only some boring bulls are around. We plan to come back at 6 for the horse events. Outside, we find a booth to get a rib sandwich and a blueberry/wild rice brat. Saved $2.50 on the brat, and it was the best thing we’d have all day. Also got cheese curds and more liquid. Pretty sure liquid count is at 1 gallon at this point. And it’s all sweating back out.
We sit on a curb and people watch. Becky says, “quick, turn around.” I do for a split second and turn back. She says “Did you see it?” She was referring to a woman’s ginormous cleavage beaming out to all passersby with a bob in her step. “I think they can see that from the space station” I say.
5:15 p.m.: I’m certain I’m going insane.
We compare notes at this point. The fair was definitely not the religious mecca of Minnesota that it had been cracked up to be for so many years. We are exhausted even without moving much, hot, full of deep fried junk, and seriously wondering why, why, why?
We decide to head to the midway for some games and buy $25 worth of tickets for $8 off with a coupon. Thus ends our coupon usage. We both play a bunch of games, but Becky is the only one to win anything – a rather suspicious looking yellow dog.
I let out my inner kid for a romp through a funhouse like thing themed on New York. The last bit of it is a 3 story tall spiral slide that the guy at the top says I will get a picture taken at the end so try to smile. I do my best, but somewhere around turn 4, I begin to wonder how the hell long this slide is. Around turn 15 I lose control over my smile muscles. The picture at the top of this post does a good job of capturing the experience.
A few more games, and loses, and we head back to the coliseum, only this time the place is jam packed with people wanting to see horse stuff happen. I’m carrying a load of fresh cut French fries and a soda. We finally find a seat on the far end of the stadium and sit down. I think I was about 20 more seconds of effort from collapsing, but I made it. Becky felt the same. We both aired out as best we could while watching teen horse girls do their horse thing around barrels. It took about 25 minutes to feel like I wouldn’t be feinting.
7:15 p.m.: We make our way over to the Grand Stand, walk up the ramp and find ourselves in a weird area of the fair that tries to sell shit like used exercise equipment and vegetable peelers, and no visible way to the stands. We eventually find the exit we want and get to our seats. Becky got way into the Avett Brothers by accident. Her workplace doesn’t allow spotify or much else, but she can listen to music on Pandora and youtube. She found the Avett Brothers also on the NPR series and fell in love with them. She found out they were playing at the fair and let me know. We didn’t really have the money for it, but we did it anyway. The concert was all for Becky, so I’m letting her take over the post from here.
I’ve been feeling broken, lost and constant fear and worry about my parents, our finances, the move.
But then, the Avett Brothers came on the stage. I was expecting an acoustic, quiet performance, but we got this massive show with amazing screens. It was during their 3rd song, Morning Song:
I started singing and I let go of the worries. Just set them down. Joel turned to me and said, “There, I missed that Becky. I’m glad we’re here.” I said, “I miss her, too.” The concert brought magic and beauty to our lives.
(Joel again: This is the look on Becky’s face I live for – sheer delight that you never see on adults. It’s pure joy, like a kid getting a puppy joy. It’s this face I see when I’m meditating at yoga.)
Here is the set list, if you’re curious:
Satan Pulls the Strings / Live and Die / Morning Song / Will You Return? / Down With the Shine / Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise / Vanity / Ramblin’ Fever (Merle Haggard cover) / Slight Figure of Speech / Murder in the City / Salina / Die Die Die / Winter in My Heart / The Prettiest Thing (David Childers cover) / Paranoia in B-Flat Major / Laundry Room / I Killed Sally’s Lover / Talk on Indolence / Hand-Me-Down Tune
ENCORE: Thank God I’m a Country Boy (John Denver cover) / Kick Drum Heart / I and Love and You
Fortunately, people had cellphones in the audience and could give me the encore I needed:
It sounds so silly, but I felt this connection with the concert and Joel and the State Fair that was completely unexpected and desperately needed.
As we stood and watched the fireworks, Joel and I just held each other. It was one of those memories I will hold and relive many times in the future.
We ended the night with the bucket of cookies along with at least 300 people.
A dear friend of mine said that at the State Fair, you will see someone you don’t want to see, someone you didn’t expect, and someone in your family. During the concert, I saw an old colleague from Linnehan Foy Advertising. She was a horrible person, perhaps she’s changed, but I didn’t want to talk to her to find out. After the concert, we ran into Nathan and his wife. Nathan works with Joel and it was nice to see him. Finally, we ran into Joel’s twin cousins at the back of the cookie line. Turns out, it was their first time at the fair as well. We love the twins so it was a perfect ending.
I think I understand the fair. But, I’m not sure. I think we’ll need to do a bit more research next year.
For an Avett Brothers introduction :