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.


  1. Good memories!! From just a year ago. In NYC, there is a group of Minnesotan "ex-pats" who put on a Minnesota State Fair in New York. They ship in several pounds of Sweet Martha's cookie dough, and it's kind of a progressive party, hitting up spots in the city where they have Fair-ish things, ie--on a stick. Loved this!

    1. I love the idea of the Minnesota State Fair in New York! I hope they have log rolling and paper fish hats, too!