In spite of my loathe/hate relationship with the Minnesota State Fair, last Saturday Esteban and I fulfilled our legal obligation as residents of our fair state and attended the annual event.
There are three things you need to know about this 320-acre cornucopia of farm animals, crop art, and questionable foods:
1. it’s smelly,
2. it’s loud, and
3. it’s crowded.
In other words, it’s basically an introvert’s nightmare. So how do I cope? Here’s my plan of attack, in three easy steps.
Step 1 • Plan ahead
Before I go, I study the new food selections for that year. (Pork. BE INSPIRED.)
This year featured not one but TWO Spam® dishes — including Spam “sushi.” We also had some multicultural options, like the extremely authentic and very traditional Italian Taco.
But the ad that most caught my eye was the last one: “New Vendors. New Vendors. Two brand-new vendors located at locations throughout the fairgrounds.” Could you please be less specific, and more redundant? Thank you.
Anyway. After perusing these dubious delicacies, I note their locations on my map — so I can actively avoid them.
Step 2 • Go early, and leave early
There’s no way around it: The Minnesota State Fair is going to be crowded. (In 2016 it broke its attendance record with 1,943,719 visitors over 10 days.)
But over the years I’ve noticed that some elements of the crowd are more obnoxious — like, say, screaming children and drunks — so I’ve developed strategies to minimize my exposure.
Careful observation reveals that most of the families with small children arrive at the Fair after about 10 a.m. (My working theory is that this is because it’s physically impossible to dress a small child before he or she wants to be dressed.)
These small children are adorable when they first arrive, of course, because there’s so much interesting stuff to eat (see Exhibit A — New Foods for 2016) and so much to see. Why, just look at these two tots dueling with their popsicles!
The novelty wears off quickly, though, and by 2 p.m. these once-happy children are emitting howls of displeasure so loud they could deafen a coyote. Not coincidentally, this is also when many of the adults show the first signs of inebriation.
You can avoid all of this by arriving at the Fair at 7 a.m. and then cheerfully leaving at noon, before the smiles turn to snarls. Sure, you may miss out on a couple of entertaining arrests — but you can always catch the highlight reel on the evening news.
Step 3 • Take shelter
If in spite of following Steps 1 and 2 you’re still overwhelmed, head for the relative safety of a barn. (Important comfort tip: Not recommended with open-toed shoes, unless you’re up for a poo-dicure.)
Inside the barns you’ll find a haven for introverts, many of whom will also be hiding behind cameras.
And if you’re lucky you’ll get to watch a farrier demonstration …
… catch a few zzz’s with a cow …
… or chat with the local cowboys and cowgirls.
As a former horsewoman, this is my favorite part — even if that horse on the left, below, seems to disapprove of my photography.
When Esteban and I were there they were also judging cattle in the arena. We got a huge kick out of the judge’s explanations of why he had chosen a particular heifer.
But as fun as it was to reconnect with Minnesota’s agrarian roots, I was relieved when it came time to leave and the crowd thinned as we walked toward the exit.
It’s been grand, Minnesota State Fair.