State Fair Diaries: It begins

Three years ago I entered a couple of Minnesota State Fair baking contests on a whim and was rewarded with a Blue straight out of the gate. Since then I've come to understand that much effort and luck are needed to compete with the likes of Marjorie Johnson (see photo below) and my friend Gary (the Marjorie Johnson of canning).

More gratifying than a ribbon, standing in the drop off line is one of the best experiences of the State Fair. Each year we ribbon chasers gather along Cosgrove Street with the very best our kitchens have to offer. We stand together in a never ending line of other Fair geeks and competitive bakers, carefully bearing angel food cakes and fruit pies that are strategically stored in duct-taped grocery boxes, giant plastic tubs, and fancy bakery boxes. The old schoolers parade their precious goods in strollers and wagons loaded with banana bread and snickerdoodles and salted caramel bars.

Exhausted from the sleepless nights leading up to this moment, we swap horror stories ("This was my third batch in 24 hours. The humidity wrecked two cakes.") and successes ("I started with my mom's recipe. She won a Blue in the Iowa State Fair back in the 60s"). We admire the pecan covered chocolate layer cake of a first timer. We laugh about getting beat every single year by Marjorie. We talk about which days we'll come to the Fairgrounds (most of us are addicts who attend the Fair daily), which new foods we want to try, which concerts we will attend, whose kids are in 4H this year. There are so many stories and never enough time to hear them all.

We are swallowed up in the moment; becoming part of the history of our community, all that we are proud of, all that we have accomplished as a state and as a people. We are connected, forever linked to each other and to our Fair. This love of our Fair might sound melodramatic, but I assure you it is not. We welcome it as though we are running into the arms of a returning lover.

For the rest of you the Minnesota State Fair begins on Thursday. For those of us who stood in the drop off line yesterday, two blocks and two hours long this year due to a record turnout, the 2015 Fair already began.


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