Wednesday, August 29, 2012

State Fair stories: Minnesota.

Last week, I regaled you with my less-than-ideal stories of the South Dakota State Fair. This week, it’s Minnesota’s turn.

The Minnesota State Fair (quaintly known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together) is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of a HUGE deal. According to Wikipedia (my totally reliable source), almost two million people grace the fairgrounds each year – it’s the second largest state fair in the nation. The Minnesota State Fair really means business.

Up until the beginning of my junior year of college, I had never been to the Minnesota State Fair. Since my fateful freshman year trip, I hadn’t been back to the South Dakota State Fair, either. So when I found out that James’s band, Funky Gumbo (remember them?) was going to play at the Minnesota State Fair over Labor Day weekend, my curiosity was piqued. I’d heard so much about this State Fair to end all State Fairs, and I wanted to experience it for myself.

James would be indisposed for the majority of his time at the fair, so I had to find some other Fair buddies. My friend Sara was game – we could even stay with her grandparents! Our friend Lacee planned to come along, too – her boyfriend (now husband) Kevin was also a member of Funky Gumbo, and she was their most loyal fan.
Being funky.
The three of us loaded into Sara’s car in Morris and headed east to the Twin Cities. We arrived at the fair and hit all the hot spots: the birthing barn, the Al Franken booth, the plaster Minnesota dinosaurs. And oh, the food! Sara and I were fairly unadventurous with our selections: cheese curds, frozen chocolate covered bananas.
We didn't just eat food: we posed as food, too.
Lacee, however, had no such qualms. She bravely devoured alligator sausage (“tastes like chicken”) and teriyaki ostrich while Sara and I cautiously observed. Both were served on sticks, of course.
Stick gator.
The three of us had a great time at the fair that day – we filled our bellies with greasy fair food and people-watched to our hearts’ content (I think we may have even had a tally of people wearing Crocs. The number was alarmingly high). 
Lacee was briefly a victim of the
deadly knock-off Croc.
After all that, we still came back for round two the next day. Lacee and I listened to Funky Gumbo, but after that, we were more or less ready to call it a day. James, on the other hand, was not. When he got done playing, he was ready to explore. Lacee, Kevin, and Sara all ended up heading for home while James and I dove headfirst into the State Fair crowds. We met up with James’s brother Sean, and thanks to them, I got to experience the miracle of Sweet Martha’s cookies plus the all-you-can-drink milk booth.
That was September 2007. It took until August of 2011 for me to make my triumphant return to the Minnesota State Fair. My friend Camber had recently moved to the Twin Cities, so she and her friend Mark invited me to spend the afternoon with them at the fair. Never one to turn down a priceless cultural experience, I happily tagged along.

Thanks to Camber and Mark, I saw a whole other side of the fair. We got to see all sorts of lumberjack-y competitions, and we became the proud owners of paper fish hats.
A wardrobe essential.
We visited the Spam booth and became potted meat royalty.
Queens of Spam.
We even helped celebrate Mr Bubble’s 50th anniversary by playing in the bubble pit.
"Put bubbles on your heads!" said a group of Marines.
As with every State Fair, there was a fair (ha ha) amount of eating, also: I had frozen chocolate-dipped fruit on a stick, which was extra delicious in the summer heat. Camber and Mark bought Sweet Martha’s cookie buckets, which merited several trips to the all-you-can-drink milk stand.

Most importantly, though, Camber had her first taste of cheese curds. You read that correctly: Camber had never had cheese curds before. I didn’t think you were allowed to enter the state of Minnesota without having tried cheese curds. Upon hearing this distressing news, Camber’s lack of cheese curd experience was quickly remedied. She approved, but really, how could she not?

Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the Minnesota State Fair this year. Now that I’ve moved to Sioux Falls, I can no longer hop on the shuttle and be there in ten minutes. If you do go, do me a favor and have an extra something-bizarre-on-a-stick for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

State Fair stories: South Dakota.

It’s State Fair season: that glorious last hurrah before summer ends. Whether you go for the baby animals, the greasy food, or the C-list entertainment, everybody has a soft spot for the State Fair.

The South Dakota State Fair is held in Huron, widely regarded as the armpit of the state. We weren’t a big State Fair family: none of us were in 4-H, so we had no animals to show or pie competitions to enter. Besides, Huron was more than an hour away from home: no one was too keen on driving that far for a mediocre fair. We only went to the State Fair if Dad was shopping for farm equipment, which was just thrilling for the rest of us.

The only time I really wanted to go to the State Fair was when Billy Gilman was slated to perform: my friend Sarah and I had spent the entire summer listening to “Oklahoma” on repeat.
Actually, the whole album.
But then, HE CANCELLED – rumor was that it was because his voice had changed.

The first time I went to the South Dakota State Fair of my own accord was over Labor Day weekend, 2004. My friend Bob had gone to 4-H Performing Arts camp that summer, and he’d spent most of his June and July weekends singing at county fairs across the state. The big finale performance was at the State Fair, and we HAD to go: Bob was going to be wearing a bedazzled jumpsuit and singing “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

My friends Nick and Meagan were more than happy to go with me, and Meagan and I even bought brand new State Fair outfits (and got locked in the Watertown mall while doing so). The three of us headed west on Highway 14, and we arrived at the fair in no time. I don’t remember what all we saw there: booths filled with leather goods and cutouts of George W Bush come to mind.
It's South Dakota, after all.
Bob’s performance wasn’t until later that evening, so we had a fair amount of time to kill. However, it started threatening rain almost as soon as we parked Nick’s pickup. Go figure. We spent a good portion of our afternoon sheltering in seed corn tents and dashing off to the next location when the rain seemed to show signs of stopping.

The rain let up as the afternoon wore on, and we thought we’d be totally fine for the 4-H Performing Arts segment of our day. We took our seats close to the front of the stage and anxiously awaited the show… but when the show hadn’t started fifteen minutes after it was scheduled to begin, we started to wonder what was going on. After looking at the posted bandstand schedule, the problem became clear: we were at the wrong stage. And it was starting to rain.

We booked it all the way across the fairgrounds to the RIGHT stage, and we arrived just as Bob took the stage to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
It's a terrible picture, but it
was also a terrible jumpsuit.
We sat through a couple more performances as the rain started to pour and the wind began to howl. When the lightning started, the 4-H Powers That Be immediately halted the show and herded us all into the nearby 4-H building. We found Bob there, who told us that we wouldn’t get to see his rap number thanks to the rain delay. When they let us out of the 4-H building, we made a mad dash to a nearby gas station for some hot chocolate (and for Meagan and I to clean up our terrifying non-waterproof mascara). We got completely soaked in the process: so much for Meagan’s and my special State Fair outfits.
Meagan didn't mind as much as I did.
Bob headed back to his tent, and the three of us headed home. Nick, Meagan, and I were drenched and looked a lot like drowned rats, but we’d had a good time. A good enough time, in fact, that I was not at all opposed to coming back the following year.

My first week of college was the week before Labor Day. The RAs all suggested that no one go home for the long weekend: after all, you just got here, and what a great time to bond with your floormates! I, however, had promised Bob that I’d come see his rendition of “Coming to America” at this year’s State Fair. One of my new floormates, a pretentious private-schooler from St Paul, asked if he could go with me. For reasons I will never know, I said yes. We piled in my little car and trucked to my parents’ house.

Upon arrival, the first thing Dad said was “what happened to your tire?” One of my car tires was almost completely flat: I had run over a nail driving out of the parking lot in Morris, and had driven on my busted tire for nearly 150 miles. Calla the Dumbass strikes again.

My parents were also less than impressed with this city boy I’d brought home. City Boy knew less about tires than I did, which led to some not-too-subtle eye-rolling from my dad. If these were the kind of friends I’d be making in college, I’d imagine my parents were dreading the next four years. (Sidenote: those weren’t the kind of friends I made in college. I just had to learn the hard way.)

City Boy and I drove to the fair on Saturday. For the entire drive, all City Boy did was bitch about how flat South Dakota was and how horrible it would be to live here. While the drive from Arlington to Huron is no scenic wonderland, it’s not really that atrocious. It didn’t take me long to get annoyed: this guy had never even set FOOT in South Dakota, yet had immediately condemned the whole state. If you’re going to mock my home state, at least give it a bit of a chance… and take it easy on the harsh words if you’re relying on the South Dakotan to get you home again.

I have almost no recollection of our time at the State Fair, except that I was getting more and more torked off with every snide remark City Boy would make. I had brought him to the State Fair so we could have fun, not so he could continually comment on how plebian we Dakotans were. City Boy didn’t even enjoy the baby animals: he was a vegetarian, so all he could talk about was how the little pigs would be ground up into sausage once the fair was over.

By the time Bob’s performance rolled around, I was fuming. A whole day of “wow, I can’t BELIEVE how much better I am than all of you Dakotans” comments had worn my patience thin. After Bob’s performance, I quickly said hello to Bob, telling him that he’d made a wonderful Neil Diamond and that I would call him later (I added a meaningful glance here, which Bob totally understood).

The drive back to Arlington was mostly silent, as was the drive back to Morris. That weekend taught me an important lesson: try to screen your friends better unless you want your parents to make fun of you until the day you die. My dad still loves to bring up that weekend: “What were you THINKING?!” If I only knew.

So those are my two memorable (for better or worse) South Dakota State Fair experiences. Stay tuned for my grand tales of the Minnesota State Fair!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

let's talk about pet fish.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been fascinated by sea life. From sea anemones to octopi, I can’t get enough of it. Give me a day at the aquarium, and I’ll be a happy camper – especially if said aquarium has a touch tank filled with stingrays.
Giant crabs are also acceptable.
Ever since I can remember, I have been captivated by even the lowliest of aquatic life. There was a small creek near my childhood home, and I would spend summers searching for a crayfish to keep as a pet. When my attempts at crayfish catching failed – as they invariably did – I would move onto easier prey: minnows. I had one of those tiny green fishtank nets, and I’d go minnow-catching. I’d return home with an ice cream bucket full of minnows, excitedly naming each and every one of them. I always received the same reaction from my mother: “That’s nice, but you can’t bring them in the house. Better put them back in the creek.” So I’d bid farewell to my pets, sigh deeply, and return them to the creek. Of course, I came back the next day to check on them, and they seemed to be happy.

I got the same reaction to all the turtles, toads, frogs, and salamanders I would catch and try to domesticate. I would put them in my little red Radio Flyer and wheel them home, so excited for the newest household addition. My parents were ready: “What are you going to feed them.” Uhh… “What if they’re lonely for their families?” Uhh… “Do you think they want to be kept here in an ice cream bucket when they could be by a pond and have all the space they need?” My parents made good points, and they employed the always-successful guilt assault. I dutifully freed these creatures, as well.

As I got a little older, my parents thought that I was mature enough to handle a pet of my very own: a goldfish. Believe it or not, they even thought I was mature enough for TWO goldfish! I must’ve been four or five at the time, because my only responsibility was to feed them – and even then, someone was nearby to make sure I didn’t dump the entire container of fish food in their little bowl.

Goldfish are not terribly sturdy creatures, and sure enough, one of my fish died shortly after we brought it home. Mom and Dad felt like I was perhaps a bit too young for the life and death talk, so they relied on me being really gullible.

First thing every morning, I would dash down the stairs and say good morning to my two goldfish. Imagine my surprise on that particular morning when there was only one fish looking back at me. Mom had already gone to work, so, bewildered, I looked to Dad for the answers. “Well, Calla,” Dad said. “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were coming to visit your mom’s office today. Your fish really wanted to go with her to meet them, so your mom took your fish to work.” A perfectly reasonable explanation, right? I was absolutely sold on Dad’s Ninja Turtle story, no questions asked. I was a little peeved that Mom hadn’t taken ME to meet the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I couldn’t begrudge my goldfish the opportunity to meet some reptilian celebrities.
Even with weapons, they look so friendly!
Mom returned home that evening with an identical bright orange fish in a plastic baggie. “Your fish had such a good time at my office today,” she said, gently dropping the replacement fish in the bowl. “He LOVED meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” (I had decreed that all of my fishes were boys.) I was glad my fish had a good day out in the working world, but I made Mom promise to take me – not the fish, no matter how hard they begged – with her to meet them should the Ninja Turtles ever return. She promised.

It wasn’t too long after this magical fish disappearing act that my uncle Steve came to visit us. I don’t remember why – maybe we were gone, or maybe Steve was looking for something to do – but Steve ended up cleaning the fish bowl. Steve, who was not a fish owner, did a good job… except for one thing. He put hot water in the bowl. It wasn’t long before my poor goldfish suffered little fishy system failure, and they went belly up. Steve felt terrible. He offered to get new fish for me, but Mom and Dad were beginning to think that these fish were more trouble than they were worth. I don’t remember how they broke the news to me, but I probably wasn’t too devastated: after all, I had a creekful of minnows just down the road.

Some years later, I declared that I wanted to give this goldfish thing another try. I had gotten some money for my birthday, and I was going to use it to set up a little goldfish paradise. I bought a little tank with a green lid, colorful pebbles, and the fanciest fish food WalMart had. Then came the fish: one silver, one gold. I don’t remember what I named them, but I’m sure it was something bizarre. For four days, I lovingly cared for my fish: I fed them on time, and I cleaned their tank. On the fifth day, much like with my first fish, I came downstairs to greet my pets. I found them floating on the surface, bellies in the air.

I was confused: what had I done wrong? I had fed them and loved them. I consulted the only other person I knew who had a fish: my friend Allison. She informed me that it wasn’t me, it was them: WalMart fish at that time had notoriously short life spans. Allison’s fish had come from the local aquarium and hobby store (which is a story for another time), and her fish was thriving.

I buried my fish in our tulip garden (I guess their greater purpose was to be fertilizer) and more or less gave up on fish. That is, until a fish named Willie came along.
(not actually Willie: just a stand-in.)
When I was thirteen, my family and I moved into a new house. As a house-warming gift, my aunt Barb presented us with a red and blue beta fish. He came with a name: Wilfred, which we shortened to Willie. Willie lived in a bowl that was also home to a plant: the plant sat elevated in a little plastic cup, and its roots stretched into the bowl where Willie swam.
It looked a lot like this, but without the
decorative bamboo mat and seashells.
Apparently, Willie would eat the algae that grew on the roots, and life would be good for him. We fed him beta food a couple of times a week, and both Willie and the plant seemed to flourish.

Willie the beta lived to the ripe old age of three. When he passed away, Mom flushed him to his watery grave with a simple eulogy: “Goodbye, Willie. You look really gross.” I warned her that I might reuse that comment for her eulogy, but she didn’t seem to mind.

It’s been almost ten years since Willie the beta died, and he was the last pet fish to grace our household. I keep saying that I should get another fish, but I never do. Why? I remembered how fish are a great idea, but only in theory: if I’m going to invest in a pet, it’s going to be something with four legs and a tail, and it’s going to come from the Humane Society. The fish swimming around in pet store tanks don’t need my love nearly as much as the cats and dogs from the Humane Society do. Besides, it’s a lot more satisfying to give an awesome name to a dog or a cat than a fish: I’ve got a whole list of them. As soon as I move to a place that will allow pets, I’ll be lined up to adopt a pet. Goldfish need not apply.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

top ten Tuesday: ten items of clothing from thrift stores.

A few months ago, I wrote about my undying love for all things thrifty. In that article, I gave you a list of my top ten thrift store/rummage sale finds: all under five dollars. While those items are lovely, there’s so much more to share, and some of it did cost a bit more than five dollars. I’d like to elaborate on my love of consignment stores – this time, I’m going to focus only on clothes. Places like Goodwill are a goldmine for quality clothing at a measly price – that is, if you have the patience. You can always go to consignment stores, but expect to pay a little more. Since stores like Plato’s Closet actually pay people for bringing their clothing in, the overall inventory is going to be higher quality than a Salvation Army or Goodwill. However, since they DO handpick their stuff, Plato’s Closet merchandise tends to aim itself at the Hollister-loving preteen crowd.

Overall, Goodwill tends to be my thrift store of choice. Getting clothes from Goodwill is much more satisfying for a number of reasons. First of all, you really have to work to get the good stuff. You have to sift patiently through the racks of clothes which are almost never sorted by size. When you find that elusive treasure, it’s just that more rewarding because you really searched for it. Plus, when you buy from Goodwill, your money is going toward a good cause. Lastly, you can’t beat their prices – if you go on the right day, you can even get half off things with a certain color tag.

Enough rambling. Here are my top ten clothing items from thrift stores!

Black embroidered skirt. Goodwill. $3.99.
I don’t know if you’ve been skirt shopping lately, but it’s a pain, especially for a cheapskate like me. When I’m looking for a skirt, I want it to be affordable and not skanky. Unfortunately for me, skirts tend to be one or the other. All of the professional-looking skirts cost more than I want to pay, and the affordable skirts barely cover my butt. Where, oh where, could I find an reasonably priced skirt that wouldn’t make me look like a hooker? Goodwill, that’s where! Goodwill can be a skirt treasure-trove. Sure, you’ve got to dig through the ankle-length plaid numbers, but you’ll find something good if you look long enough. Case in point: this black skirt. It’s an A-line (do you watch What Not to Wear? If you do, you know that an A-line is universally flattering!), and it’s got some neat little designs to add some interest. Versatile, flattering, cheap, not skanky. Goodwill wins again.

Zebra skirt. Goodwill. $3.99.
Yep, another Goodwill skirt. While the black skirt was snagged from the mega-Goodwill in St Paul, this skirt was salvaged from a smaller Goodwill in Hopkins – a mid-level suburb of the Twin Cities. I hadn’t had much luck at the Hopkins Goodwill in the past, but it’s James’s Goodwill of choice, so we go there anyway. While he’s scouting for dress pants, I poke my way through the skirts and dresses, and behold! I find something good. This one is also an A-line, but this one has zebra print! How can you go wrong with zebra print? Ok, you can totally go wrong, but not with this skirt.

Maroon dress (Banana Republic). Second Debut. $9.
Second Debut is the classy older sister of Goodwill. When donations come in, they’re sorted at some magical Goodwill warehouse. Most of the stuff goes to Goodwill, but the brand-name donations make their way to Second Debut. At Second Debut, you’ll pay a little more for clothes, but you won’t have to search for the good stuff: the entire store IS good stuff. Best of all, they have sort of a sliding scale for prices. When an item comes in, it’s given a particular price. After three months, that price drops – the dates and prices are listed on the back of each tag. If you’re fortunate enough to find something off the clearance rack, it’s always fifty percent off the lowest price (hence my nine dollar Banana Republic dress). And after all that, the money is still going towards something good.

Grey trousers. Plato’s Closet. $10 before trade-in.
I hate dress pants. I really do. I don’t know what it is about them, but I’d put them in the same category as stirrup pants and skorts on my list of clothes to avoid. Since I dislike dress pants so much, it makes dressing for my business-casual workplace all the more difficult. In the spring and summer, it’s no problem: I have plenty of skirts and dresses to last me for those fleeting warm months. It becomes much more of an issue in the winter when it’s too cold to wear skirts with bare legs: I enjoy wearing tights about as much as I like dress pants. So I really do need dress pants, but I have a tough time finding any that I actually want to wear. Imagine my surprise when I found the holy grail of dress pants at Plato’s Closet: they’re soft, comfortable, and trouser-cut (again, universally flattering! Thanks, What Not to Wear!). Aside from a hole in the crotch that even someone with such limited sewing skills as me could fix, these pants were the perfect find.

Green jacket. Plato’s Closet. $14 before trade-in.
Whenever I go to Plato’s Closet, I have clothes to sell. I rarely go there just for the sake of shopping; I don’t have the patience. While the buyers are sorting through whatever I brought in that day, I browse – and that’s how I end up with stuff from Plato’s Closet. I can never remember how much I paid for something because I always get a discount from my trade-in. Otherwise – let’s be honest – I would probably never buy stuff from Plato’s Closet without that glorious trade-in option. Their clothes are nice, but $14 is an awful lot for something used, especially considering places like Target, JCPenney, and Kohl’s will have sales where you can buy brand new clothing for three or four dollars. So I shop at Plato’s Closet, but only with the discount. I had this particular jacket stripped from a mannequin. It totally looks better on me.

Grey sweatshirt jacket. Goodwill. $4.99.
In case you haven’t noticed, most of my Goodwill scores take place in urban Minnesota. This is one exception. There are two Goodwills in Sioux Falls, neither of which is anything too wonderful. I was in there with James one day (he was on a mission to find something kitchen-related, I’m sure), and I saw this jacket thing hanging innocently on the end of a rack. It’s kind of bizarre; it looks like a jacket, but the material makes it feel more like a sweatshirt. I’d call it a classed-up sweatshirt. Whatever it is, I wear it happily.

Brown and white flowered dress. Goodwill. $6.
This dress is my favorite thing to come out of any thrift store so far. It came from the Brookings Goodwill sometime in 2008. The Brookings Goodwill has notoriously slim pickings, so I wasn’t expecting much when I went there with Mom. We were perusing the dresses when she pulled a brown and white one out of their midst. I was not convinced; the dress was a few sizes up from what I normally wore, so I didn’t even want to try it on. Mom said, “Oh, just give it a shot! You never know!” Sure enough, it fit beautifully. It’s not only my favorite thrift store item, but one of my favorite pieces of clothing out of my entire closet.

Blue coat (the Limited). Plato’s Closet. $30 before trade-in.
Mom and I found this lovely blue coat while in the Sioux Falls Plato’s Closet. Normally, I would never pay $30 for a used coat. NEVER. But in this case, a.) I had some trade-in money, b.) I had a 20% coupon – Plato’s Closet gives you a stamp whenever you spend or sell $10, and once you get 20 stamps, you get 20% your purchase, and c.) Mom offered to pay for the rest since it was nearing Valentine’s Day. I cashed in my discounts and took her up on her offer (Mom got a very nice black coat that day, too). This is by far the classiest coat I own, and I love it. The lobster pin was my addition – it really adds something, dontcha think?

Black flats (RocketDog). Y’s Buys. $3.
This is the only pair of shoes I own that I have gotten via thrift store. I’ve always had a hard time buying previously-owned shoes, but I made an exception for these since they still had the original tags on them. I’m one of those people who just doesn’t like feet. I think they’re gross, and I don’t want them anywhere near me. My idea of the worst job ever is to work at a nail salon giving pedicures. That being said, I don’t really want a pair of shoes that once belonged to someone else. I have no idea where those shoes have been, and what if the person who owned them had athlete’s foot? No thank you. I have purchased secondhand shoes in the past, but they’ve all made their way back to the thrift stores. But not these shoes – they were clean and perfect, so they came home with me. Y’s Buys is run by the YMCA, and they have a TON of stuff. It’s organized much like Goodwill, so you have to search for what you want. Like Goodwill, the money goes to a good cause, so I feel extra good about my black shoes.

Turquoise necklace. Plato’s Closet. $2.
I really have a thing for turquoise, especially when it comes to jewelry. I’m not talking about actual turquoise, but just the color turquoise… hence the plastic turquoise necklace! Rarely do I browse the jewelry at Plato’s Closet; it’s right in front of the cash registers, so it’s almost always obstructed by people waiting in line. One day, while I was wasting time waiting for the buyers to finish with my clothes, the crowds parted. I took this rare opportunity to sift quickly through the jewelry and found – much to my surprise – that it was all super cheap. So now I’ve got a lovely plastic turquoise necklace that cost less than coffee at Starbucks. Score.
So there you have it: my top ten clothing items from thrift stores. I certainly have nothing against buying brand new clothes, but it’s just so much more fun to find the good stuff where you least expect it. If you haven’t paid a visit to your local Goodwill lately, I strongly recommend you do so. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, you might come away with something good.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

adventures in Brookings: the Brookings Cinema Five edition.

Once again, I’m going to use this blog to sing the praises of Brookings, South Dakota. I’ve already told you about all the fun my friends and I had in the local WalMart, the delicious burgers at Nick’s Hamburger Shop, and the great food/people watching to be found at the Summer Arts Festival. But, dear friends, there is so much more of Brookings left to cover. We’ll pick up on the Adventures in Brookings series with the Brookings Cinema Five.
It doesn't look like much, but it's got everything I need!
The Brookings Cinema Five is, as you may have judged from its title, a five-screen movie theatre. My mom actually worked at this particular theatre when she was in high school (she got to see Young Frankenstein and other gems for free during work hours: what a great job). 

Growing up, I only ever went to two movie theatres: Bryant and Brookings. The Bryant movie theatre was about the same distance from my house as the Brookings theatre, but Bryant was a whole lot cheaper. You had to wait an extra week or two (or three or four) for movies to get to Bryant, but it was always worth the wait. All five of my family members could go to a movie – AND get treats – for under twenty bucks. And believe it or not, I bet you could still take a family of five to the movies in Bryant for just a hair over twenty dollars. The Bryant theatre is a great little place.

As I got older (and got a driver’s license), I wanted to go to movies with my friends. Every now and again, we would go to a movie in Bryant (my friend Bob and I went to The Notebook in Bryant – for all the wrong reasons – but that’s a story for another time). Since most of my friends lived farther south than I did, it was more convenient to go to movies in Brookings. Most of the time, we were too cheap (and broke) to go to the evening shows, so we would plan entire days around afternoon matiness. During the school year, the Brookings theatre had matinees on weekends and every day during winter break. Summer was the best, though – three matinees per movie, every single day.
We didn't mind if we missed the matinees, though -
Sex and the City seemed like it would be best viewed at night.
Bob and Sarah were generally my movie-going partners. I wish I would’ve kept track of how many movies we saw during the summers, weekends, and Christmas breaks of 2004 and 2005. We saw the good (Mean Girls), the bad (The Village), and the ugly (Snakes on a Plane).
Since our summers were spent working menial jobs with unpredictable schedules, we usually found ourselves with some weird day off like Tuesday. We’d have the run of the theatre, and it was great. That way, we could comment obnoxiously on the movie at hand, and there would be no one in the theatre to scowl at us.

We would plan entire days around matinees in Brookings. We’d arrive in Brookings in the early afternoon and proceed to waste time (WalMart) until the movie began. Our showtime of choice was usually the 4.30 – 5.45 matinee range: it was the last matinee showing of the day, and we’d get out of the movie just in time for supper. Then, we’d go somewhere classy (Applebee’s) and hash over the movie we’d just seen. We’d head back to Arlington, stop for an ice cream cone at the Dairy Mart, and plan do to the whole thing over the next day.

Whenever the three of us went to movies, we always had a pattern. We’d barely get there on time (we always told ourselves that THIS TIME we would get there in time to see the movie trivia before the previews, but we never managed to make it), and Bob would buy a giant thing of popcorn that he’d never finish. I would be in charge of napkins (and would always take way too many), but before we’d head in, we’d have to scout around the theatre for our favorite employee. His name was Trifon, and we loved him (mostly because his name was Trifon). Once we determined whether or not Trifon was working, we would finally head into the theatre. We then had to find the perfect seats, whine about the sticky floor, and spy on the people around us.

Every once in a while our work schedules would ruin everything, and we would be forced to fork over the extra cash for an evening show. We couldn’t make an entire day of it like we would’ve with a matinee, but things certainly could’ve been worse.

The Brookings Cinema Five, like all good theatres, had midnight showings of the big-ticket movies, like the Harry Potter series. My friends and I never took advantage of these midnight showings, mostly because none of us were confident in our abilities to stay awake for the drive home. I’ve been to midnight showings in Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, but that’s because home was no more than ten minutes away (and I didn’t have to watch for deer).

Most of the time, the movies I went to see had been in the theatre for a fair amount of time already. This was the case for two reasons: 1.) I was usually too lazy and/or scatterbrained to see it right away, and 2.) waiting an extra few days made the theatres a lot less crowded, and therefore chances were slim that you’d get a big beefy guy sitting right in front of you. Case in point: during a movie viewing not so terribly long ago, Bob, Sarah, and I smelled something horrible. It was this huge, sweaty couple sitting right in front of us, and the stench enough to make your eyes water. I don’t remember what movie it was, but if we had waited another week, we could’ve easily gotten up and sat somewhere less smelly. As it was, there was nowhere else to sit, and we had to breathe through our mouths for the duration of the film.

 Every once in a great while, impatience would necessitate that I go to a movie on opening weekend. I only did this for really important movies, like the final Lord of the Rings movie (which I may or may not have gone to by myself, but it was totally worth it). My brother, sister, and I decided to go to The Dark Knight on opening day, on a whim. We got to the Brookings theatre in time to buy their last three seats. Darrah and I sat next to each other, and Mitch had to sit in front of us. That was the first and only time I’ve seen a full house at the Brookings Cinema Five, but what did I expect? No one can resist a good Batman movie.
Thumbs down because Heath Ledger died.
As much as I love the place, it’s becoming more difficult to see a movie at the Brookings Cinema Five. Sioux Falls has some delightful theatres of its own, so if I want to see a matinee, I can do it right here. The Brookings theatre will always hold a special place in my heart: from endlessly mocking the characters in I, Robot to pretending that I have something in my eye when Uncle Ben dies in Spider-Man, the Brookings Cinema Five is chock full of goofy – yet delightful – memories. Every time I drive by that theatre, I can’t help but smile… and wonder what on earth became of Trifon.