State Fair Diaries: so hard to say goodbye

As 2016's Minnesota State Fair closes, another year over, I look back at the past 12 days in wonder. It was a year that I revisited foods I haven't eaten in a while (and I recalled why I stopped eating them in the first place), and it was a year that I didn't have nearly enough time to see everything that I wanted to. Fairchild celebrated his 50th, another GenXer facing middle age but refusing to act like a grownup (nothing wrong with that!).

I met some awesome people, usually on the shuttle rides leaving the Fairgrounds, including a retired gentleman who grew up in Glencoe (all roads lead to Gaylord, or at least very close by) and a young woman who used to earn a living making battery-operated glow-in-the-dark whiskers for Furries. I attempted to teach knife skills and food safety to some awesome 4-H kids and learned some exciting things about 4H's new First Generation 4-H Initiative.

Friday night I sat with a friend in the grandstand taking it all in. The night was cool, we could hear music and laughter and screaming from the Midway. The sky was getting dark but the lights of the Midway and the Grandstand vendors were glowing. Garrison Keillor was in good form, and we sang along with thousands of other Minnesotans to patriotic, secular, and sacred songs we learned during our youth. Nostalgia in high gear, I got teary wondering if these sing-alongs will fade from our culture along with cursive, serial commas, recess, and art class. Once gone, you can't just wish them back into culture.

There is a history to the Minnesota State Fair that we Fair geeks acknowledge and embrace. I've walked those acres for years, with family and friends and strangers. My dad used to take my hand and guide me up and down Machinery Hill, nodding at tractors and combos, and a few years later lawn mowers and snow removers. Then we'd wander through the barns and sit in the arena for hours so I could watch the horse shows. I'd get one treat, and I spent the entire day deciding which treat it would be. I almost always settled on the deep-fried ice cream: one part savory, one part sweet, and you can never go wrong with fried. Dad would enjoy a cigarette break in the Sky Ride or on the Giant Slide. We'd weave our way through the crowds back to the parking lot and our day at the Fair would end.

As many years as I've attended the Fair it never loses its wonder and magic. The people, the sounds, the smells, the tradition: we gather together to celebrate the important things. Same time, same place, next year.


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