Friday, August 24, 2007

State Fair

Minnesota, Minnesota
We are south of Manitoba
We are east of North Dakota
We’ve got something really rare

And that would be, in the words of Ann Reed, the State Fair. And that’s where the Dilettante clan was yesterday, wandering the soggy fairgrounds and ducking half-eaten corndogs and various corn-fed fairgoers, often attired in ways that are, shall we say, interesting, in the Chinese curse sense of the term.

We went there on opening day, also known as “Thrifty Thursday,” because some of the prices are somewhat reduced, a primary consideration these days. Since I have relatively young children, we end up spending a lot of time on the Kidway, where my motivated children blow through hard-earned cash at an alarming pace. If you buy in advance, you can get 20 ride tickets for about $10; if you don’t and succumb to the whining, you pay about 75 cents a ticket at the Fair itself. Considering the rides usually require 4-5 tickets, a kid can blow through $10 in about 20 minutes time, even on a “Thrifty Thursday.” Our strategy is to come and go from the Kidway as much as we can; temporary departures allow the Mrs. and I a bit of sanity and a few less whiffs of the carnies, to say nothing of keeping the kids from getting bored while we view things that are more interesting to us.

So what’s interesting at the Fair this year? Here are a few things:

Prices are up on food, in some cases a lot. Like most fairgoers, we have a usual ritual for the food we buy; the kids and I always have a “Pickle on a Stick” and we usually go for some Sweet Martha’s cookies at the end. The pickles were up 50 cents this year, from $1.50 to $2, while a bucket of Sweet Martha cookies is now a stiff $13, up $2 from last year’s $11. We didn’t bother with the bucket this year; the cookies are good, but not $13 good. If you plan to go to the fair and do it right, expect to pay at least $25/person for food. We didn’t try anything new, but early word is that O’Gara’s has a new version of corned beef and cabbage on a stick that’s pretty good; kind of combination corn dog/Irish egg roll, from what I could tell.

We managed to get the kids on television last night – we sat in the stands for Channel 4’s 5 p.m. newscast and the last shot of the broadcast featured Ben and Maria, waving wildly for the camera. Their grandparents saw it, so my kids have now used up about 15 seconds of the 15 minutes of fame they are allotted. It’s interesting to sit in on one of these newscasts, just to watch the producers and camera people at work. There’s a lot of artifice involved in television production and the process of putting together a broadcast requires a lot of work. I also enjoyed being a quiet smart-aleck while sitting in the stands. I’ve always had a little Statler and Waldorf in me and I made a few of my fellow spectators laugh by suggesting that Channel 4 anchorette Jeannette Trompeter has a cousin named Jeanette Saxophonist.

The best deal for kids is the “Little Farm Hands” exhibit on the far north edge of the Fairgrounds. It’s free and the kids get a good feeling for how a farm actually works. Last year we volunteered to help at this exhibit and it was exceptionally hard work, but from the customer side it’s pretty neat. And the kids can even get a free can of green beans for you to lug around the Fairgrounds the rest of the day.

We didn’t see it, but there’s a new North Woods exhibit, also on the far north edge of the Fairgrounds, which looked pretty cool.

Since it’s an off year for elections, we didn’t see a lot of politicians. That itself is a big improvement, although you can still be the first kid on your block to get an Al Franken button if you really want something like that. I sure don’t, but such things are available.


Anonymous said...

I always thought the song went something like this:

"Minnesota, Minnesota...
See the Badger with its tail in the air...
Minnesota, Minnesota,
You can kiss what's under there."

At least that's what I used to hear in the Big Ten pub from a bunch of drunken louts.

Mark said...

I remember that song; it was part of the parody fight songs of other Big 10 schools, where I learned that Michigan was "the cesspool of the world," and that no one cares about Iowa because "who in hell cares about corn."

And the louts loved to sing at Joe Hart's, too, where I used to hang out when I was in town.