Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blue Ribbon Responsibilities and Civic Participation

We Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon types humbly accept the celebrity and paparazzi that come with our "achievement" (a.k.a. plenty of persistence and for me a LOT of luck). This week was a whirlwind of limpa loaves and pickled root vegetables as I shared Nordic Bliss Smörgås with a KARE 11 audience on Tuesday afternoon, and FOX 9's M.A. Rosco today.

My Andy Warhol-esque 3 minutes of Fair Fame is over. Lugging the wheelie cooler back to campus this morning, I couldn't stop thinking about how participating in the different arts and cooking competitions means more than winning or losing or bragging rights. State Fair competitors are loaded with great Minnesota stories and most are willing to share them. Next year I want more of those stories! Next year I am bringing my recorder and taking names. Ah next year... I trudged a little slower and let this whole experience sink in.

The Fair was just waking up. On my route burly guys unloaded Cokes and pickle buckets and giant plastic bags of plush animals from their trucks. Outside the poultry barn I could hear turkeys screeching, their squawks muffled slightly by the fans blowing humid air at them. Already benches were filled with Fair lovers sharing corn dogs with sweaty kids and grumpy dads.

God I love the Fair. For twelve days I smile so much that my cheeks hurt. I greet other Fair gatherers as if they are in my home. "Welcome! Have a great time today! Mind if we share this picnic table with you? What's the best thing you've done or seen so far?" For twelve days we (sort of) accept the differences that divide us. For twelve days we collect free stuff and marvel at the biggest pigs and potatoes and butts our Great State produces.

I try not to dwell on the puff of pride I feel about my state and our people. Cocky individuals beget cocky nations, and nationalism is a dangerous tool (Obligatory Liberal-Sensibilities Statement.). But civic participation? That is a pretty awesome thing and the Minnesota State Fair is all about civic participation. We walk and roll together along the same streets, eat the same foods, and admire the same beeswax sculptures, if only for these twelve wonderful days.

Meanwhile, for you non-Fairers: tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes in this week's Called to the Table.

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