|New this year! World's largest portable Ferris wheel.|
We just returned home from our annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair. We love the fair. It's amazing! Fantastic! But then, I had very low expectations to begin with. My earliest impressions of fairs were unfavorable. As a child, I identified with the little pig who built his house of brick. The wolf is frustrated by his inability to blow our house down so he invites us to go to the fair with him. "Sure," says the little pig. "What! Are you crazy?" I say after the wolf is gone. "Don't worry," says the pig. "The wolf is coming at two to pick us up. We'll go at noon, check the place out, and be back home before the wolf gets here." Just as I feared, when we get to the fair the pig screws around, going on rides, eating taffy, etc. To top it off he buys a butter churn which he makes me carry on my back. We're almost home when we spot the wolf coming up the road. "Quick!" say the pig. He crawls into the churn, pulls me in behind, and claps on the cover. He's laughing so much we start rolling down the hill until we bang into our front door. No wolf. Turns out he thought we were some kind of monster out to get him. I swore off fairs after that.
Later in my childhood when I was in college, I went up to New Hampshire with some friends to do God knows what. We heard about a backwoods country fair just across the border in Maine. It was quite a hike through the woods from where we left the car so the locals could say we had come out of the woodwork rather than vice-versa. The entertainment of the day was two tractors pulling against each other. We watched for half an hour then gave it up.
So when Teresa and I got married, she had to force me to go the State Fair in St Paul where we were living at the time. She had exhibited her 4-H cows at the fair in her youth, so the place had happy memories for her. I was shocked that you had to pay an entrance fee just so you could spend more money. They also charged for parking, but if you parked far enough away and walked half a mile, parking was free. Did I mention I'm a notorious cheapskate and tightwad? Teresa must have been reconsidering her choice of mate at this point, but fortunately she's thrifty too. One thing that did impress me was the tiger run. People don't believe me when I tell them about the tiger, but this was back in the early seventies when you could still do crazy stuff with animals. You paid a few dollars to the tiger's keeper and he gave you a heavy hooded coat and a head start before releasing the tiger who always caught up to the customer and brought him or her down in the dust.
After we moved north, we forgot about the State Fair and Teresa made do with the Roseau County Fair. After the kids were grown and we were rattling around the home place, Teresa suggested we check out the State Fair on a weekend. So we did. I was now a mature adult and could appreciate the pleasures of watching the ever changing parade of my fellow citizens. The full panoply of human types was on display, from youthful models for Greek statuary to the stars of My 600 lb. Life. There were tee shirts to be read: "Grandpa's my name, spoiling's my game," or "You are the product of a billion years of evolution. Act like it!"
We've been going to the fair for the past several years, sometimes with family or friends, but mostly just the two of us. It's difficult to move through the crush of people with more than one companion. Every year there are a few new things. There was a small black "Black Lives Matter" tent that seemed to silently say "Shame." I only saw one openly Trump supporter, a young man wearing a big Trump-Pence button and smoking a cigarette in a prohibited area.
One place we always visit is the Arts Building, filled with two or three hundred paintings and sculptures. Most of the works are straightforward, some are weird, some are wonderful. We try to get there early in the day before the crowd grows massive. There's a gentle slope across the fair and as you descend it, you can see the heads of thousands and thousands of happy people bobbing up and down in the afternoon sun, while fragrant clouds of grease from the Blooming Onion stand waft across the scene.
If the earth is purgatory, the fair has more of the paradisiacal than the hellish. But I still give butter churns a wide berth.