My first attempt at a liveblog failed for several reasons.
Firstly, do you honestly think that someone on my income owns a device capable of live blogging? Please.
Secondly, I failed to post what I did write (in that up-to-date method of “scribbling on a pad of paper) for a full week after the event. Apparently, the concepts a bit beyond me.
As I have mentioned before – both in 2/3 of my daily conversations and even here on this fine blog – I am a lover of State Fairs. In fact, when discussing it not on a blog, I think the precise phrase I use is “this kind of shit.”
Of all State Fairs, there is one that rules supreme, one whose glory goes uncapped, one which boldly dares to put on sticks what has never been fried before: the wonder, the glory, the sheer pig-headed American-fest known as the Minnesota State Fair.
There are some, namely people from Wisconsin who would argue with me. This is because people from Wisconsin are wrong. One need look no further than to the fact that they regularly make cheese-wedge hats to see the truth of my accusation. Besides, does the Wisconsin State Fair have a song?
So to begin:
Labor Day, 2008
12.30 CDT: Sophie and I arrive in the huge auxillary parking lots near the U of M. In a fit of brilliant planning, the RNC, registration for U of M and the last day of the State Fair are all occurring simultaneously. In addition, the Twin Cities have decided, presumably still drowning in guilt from the bridge collapse, to rebuild every major road in the capitol. We were supposed to be here an hour ago.
12.40 CDT: On the shuttle to the Fair, Sophie suddenly decides she might not have actually locked the car. When, five minutes later, we arrive at the fair, we awkwardly explain to the driver why we are not getting off the shuttle after all.
12.50 CDT: The car was locked the whole time. Sophie smokes a cigarette. I force a smile and dream of cheese curds.
1.15 CDT: We are watching newborn pigs suckle in the Miracle of Birth Barn, overhead a jumbo screen replays on a loop the previous afternoon’s birth of a calf. I coo over the pigs, and Sophie (who, last I checked, has approximately 15 stuffed pigs in her room) squeals. Then we both, simultaneously, make the poor decision of looking up to see what’s on the jumbo screen.
1.20 CDT: Beers now in hand we stop shaking and decide we are strong enough to move on the Oink Barn. Once there, I steal an “I visited the Oink Barn!” paper crown, Sophie reminds me that these are for 10 year-olds, but I point out that if they are for ten year olds, then why are they so damn big? They are clearly for adult heads.
1.35 CDT: Halfway through my first batch of deep fried cheese curds, I realize why paper crowns for ten-year-olds might be so damn big.
Minnesota is, technically, the healthiest state in the Union. (It is also one of the best educated and has a low crime rate, but the natural modesty of Midwesterners combined with the taciturn nature of Scandinavians keep them from pointing these things out. The fact that it’s also one of the coldest keeps strangers from finding these things out.) But all this corn-fed, rosy-cheeked good health is put on hold for the Fair, where, instead, Minnesotans apply their ingenuity to finding out how many things can be put on sticks.
1.45 CDT: Sophie and I exit the Cattle Barn. Sophie wanted to stay to see the cows milked, I, on the other hand, like to think that milk grows in plastic gallons. It took me long enough to get back to eggs after seeing one squeezed out a chicken’s rear, and I need to get calcium somewhere. I begin to count things on sticks: deep fried scotch eggs on a stick (the Scots would be proud, I’m sure), deep fried snickers on a stick, pizza on a stick, deep fried pizza on a stick, and the crowing glory: hot dish on a stick. For those who have never had hot dish, it is difficult to explain. Minnesotans have a propensity to cook everything in casserole dishes. All deserts, for instance, are served only in bar form. Hot dish is pretty much leftovers in a casserole dish, meat, mashed potatoes, often gravy. I don’t know whether I’m intrigued or frightened by finding out how you make this stay on a stick. I decide it’s best left to the imagination.
2.00 CDT: We are joined by Sophie’s friend Nicole, a Minnesota native who hasn’t been the fair since she was 13. She is a on a mission for the haunted house.
2.15 CDT: We pass a booth advertising fresh corn and pies, “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON A STICK!” screams a painted sandwich board out front. The booth is empty. The one employee is munching a corn dog from a neighboring stall. Next to the booth is the DFL (Democratic Farmer Laborer) party booth, plastered with Al Franken paraphernalia. I ask for a bumper sticker. “I’m sorry,” the girl behind the counter says, putting aside her cotton candy, “nothing sticky is allowed at the Fair.”
2.30 CDT: Another round of beers consumed, we find the Haunted House. A perfectly placid group of eight-year-olds is exiting, and a few teenagers laugh derisively as they come out. We go in confident of our own nerves.
2.45 CDT: Shaking, breathless and having wet ourselves just a little, we head pale-faced for the car. Minnesotans are outstanding courageous people.