Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fair, Fat, and Forty (ish)

Minnesota State Fair Mascot
Eh, two weeks off from the blogging. Sorry about that. How do you follow up a post on feeling cranky and out of sorts except by wallowing in it for a week or so? That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. And it's summer, and the livin' is easy. Feeling much better, thank you for asking.

So on Saturday, we went to the Fair. The Minnesota State Fair - The Great Minnesota Get Together. 171,503 of us got together on Saturday. Damn, that's a lot of people. Literally everyone in Minnesota goes to the Fair. In fact, judging from the variety of attire and style, I'd say that everyone from the last five decades in Minnesota goes to the Fair. Describing the Minnesota State Fair to someone who's never been there is no easy task. Complicating the issue is that most everyone has been to a fair somewhere, sometime. Other fairs deliver the concept of a fair quite well; like other fairs the Minnesota State Fair will have farm animals and exhibits, competitions and crafts, demos and carnival rides. What other fairs can't prepare you for is the scale - the Fair is massive. Huge. 300 acres of biggity.

Every year, we tend to go with the same people, which usually means we go twice, once with one set, and once with another. I'm still waiting to find the group that will go with me, get plastered in the beer hall and watch the karaoke catastrophes, but that's probably just as well - getting plastered on 3.2 beer takes dedication and some serious pocket change. However, I see evidence every year that it can be done. I do have a group that will go and see the animals, wander through the midway (that's where all the vomit comets and tilt-a-kidneys are located), and see a stupid show or two, and I have another that will go and see the fine arts building, the agriculture/horticulture building (which usually displays flowers and houseplants - go figure), the crafts building, and see a stupid show or two.

Here's what we saw this year:
Crafts - I'm always impressed by the things that people spend their down-time in a Minnesota winter creating. I'm not always favorably impressed, mind you, and that's perhaps why I'm not a state fair judge. Some people make clothes, furniture, scrapbooks, toys, and other items that are pretty neato, and others make things that are frankly terrifying to contemplate. There's often very little middle ground, which is one of the things I like about the fair - everyone bats for the fences. If they hit, they hit big, if they miss, well, they miss big too.

Gladiolus - Very big display of arrangements, mostly on themes. Surprising how many men (and,judging from the names, their sons) are into gladiolus arranging and do it very well. This was the main event in the agriculture/horticulture/bee building. Which we can't seem to approach without muttering "You can lead a horticulture...."

Crop Art - Always a perennial favorite. For those not in Minnesota, crop art is generally representational art produced using various seeds and beans. And, no, I'm not surprised it has its own web site. Be sure to check out the work of Lillian Colton, widely regarded as the premiere artist. We had the honor of seeing Miss Lillian while we examined this year's entries. Nothing really set us afire this year, but we did note that the art form is increasingly used for anti-war and anti-Bush propaganda. No, I have no idea why.

Skank - often one of our favorite parts - the annual summer skank display. Not an official event mind you, but something about the fair always seems to bring out huge numbers of the boys and girls both young and old whose primary response to their developing and/or fading sexuality is to advertise its ready availability. So many skanky boys and girls, that we've had to subdivide the larger category of skank into more manageable divisions, like "tattooed teen love slave", "bad shoes, no shirt, serve this", "mullet and mo' mullet", "tuff with a glimpse of muff," and, of course, the classic "girlfriend in a headlock". If you're not sure what the hell I'm talking about, Google for an image of Christina Aguilera, Aaron Carter, or Tommy Lee (no, I'll not provide you with links). Then just remove the fame and any vestiges of talent, and you've got the idea. Sexy? Sometimes. Appetizingly so? Seldom. And you will need your appetite for...

Food - the Fair is all about food. On a stick. Reportedly, the Pronto Pup was first produced here. Reportedly, mini-donuts were first served here. Cheese curds, well, they weren't served here first, but every year some friend or another tries to get me to eat one. This year the "hot item" (pun only partially intended) was the "spaghetti and meatball on a stick," which only goes to show that the trend is completely over the shark and now swimmin' for the depths. The line was huge, so I passed, as I have previously done for the deep-fried Twinkie, deep-fried Snickers bar, and batter-fried pickles fads that have rolled my eyes in previous years. Some things just aren't meant to be.

Mind you, I'm a lightweight. I routinely see people with gallon buckets of french fries in one hand and two footlongs in the other. On their way to Empire Commons, home of the butterhead sculptures of dairy princesses, and some mighty tasty shakes and sundaes.

I did have a small dish of ice cream, frozen with nitrogen. And a rotisserie chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and cole slaw. Roasted corn. A frozen apple-cider pop. A caramel apple in a dish. Several fresh baked cookies. Washed down with all-you-can drink milk for a dollar. Oh, and a large diet Coke. Because that would help.

Well, I did walk around over 300 biggish acres for five hours. And winter is coming. And then the skank will be buried beneath parkas and mufflers, and the next generation of crop artists will reach for the seeds, and somewhere the daughters of dairy farmers dream of having their heads sculpted in butter. And what else can sustain you except the memory of the day you ate your weight in fried food? I blame it on the climate.

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