Delayed by the rain yesterday, I finally made it back to the Minnesota State Fair for my second visit today. Knowing I wouldn’t be returning on the last day, tomorrow, I knew I had to arrive with eyes wide open, and the belt loop one-notch looser, in order to squeeze in all that fair goodness.
Kelly and I arrived on our shuttle bus at the front gates just as the clock passed 1 o’clock. I’m a huge fan of the shuttle bus route to the fair - the system of transportation used to get a large portion of the over a hundred thousand people and their strollers, wheelchairs, coolers and wagons down to the 320 acres that make up the fairgrounds is a model of efficiency and convenience.
Although, I must admit, the foodstuffs are the reason I go every year, before I launch into a rundown of the consumables I should take a moment to celebrate some of the other highlights of the day.
- The mom on the bus that thought her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old son could share a seat was a great way to start off the day. Of course, the one seat quickly became a battleground for the two boys, both brothers trying to push the other off…then when restrained, the older brother began arguing with his mom. She responded in a fit of frustration, “Stop using your words!” Just what a 5-year-old needs to hear…mommy doesn’t want you using words anymore! *smirk*
- I’m not a mean man by any stretch of the imagination, but I must admit that my admission was paid for during a period of downtime I enjoyed near the “Wonders of Technology” building. Two families were taking a break on the other side of the walkway from me, when I noticed that the two children they had with them that had the ability to walk were in these wacky way-too-safe-for-a-kid-to-wear leaches/harnesses. The straps crisscrossed around their torso, with a leach that extended about 4 feet long from their backs. During the preparations to get up and leave, one of the fathers realized he could hold both leaches in one hand by looping one of the leaches over the other and just holding onto the one leach. Just as he was getting ready to show off his find to the rest of the group, the two kids started running around him in opposite directions. As they passed by each other behind the father, one of the kid’s leaches clothelined the other kid across his neck and that kid fell straight to the ground. The kid was alright, of course, after a bit of crying…makes you wonder if those harnesses really are safer for your kids after all!
- I finally had a reason to go into the “Creative Activities” building and look through all the various crafts on display. (I do this every year, although most of the time it is out of some weird sense of obligation I feel towards anyone who enters items in the contests!) My friend, Incense, had an afghan on display. It was a beautiful cream-colored afghan, with two rows of roses, each running up either side of the afghan. On top of being displayed, she managed to take 4th place! Woo-hoo!
- Four Shadow, one of the few stage shows I took in, was not all that wonderful. Their voices, singularly wonderful, just didn’t match well. Maybe it was the heat. Who knows? I found myself hungering for a little Tonic Sol Fa, a long-time fair favorite, to wash down the yucky taste left behind.
- As always, the Grandstand and Education building were there, waiting for me to wander through to allow time for all the food to settle. The Grandstand had a number of new exhibitors this year, the most notable among them I cannot mention, for I don’t want to ruin a gift idea I have for Christmastime.
Now, onto the food…
- A pair of Corn Dogs! Sure, I always get Pronto Pups. Mostly ‘cause I’m attracted by the more professional appearance of the Pronto Pup stands. Taste-wise, Corn Dogs versus Pronto Pups are like Coke versus Pepsi…I like both of them for different reasons! However, as any connoisseur will tell you, mustard is the only topping you’ll ever need for either!
- A new food that made it onto Damon’s shortlist this year, yet wasn’t sampled during my first fair visit, was the Grilled Chocolate Sandwich at “The Famous Moe & Joe’s Espresso Bar” over near the All-You-Can-Drink Milk Booth. It seemed to be prepared with english muffin loaf bread, lightly buttered, with a smear of chocolate syrup and a touch of raspberry jam. It was wonderful…definitely a great breakfast idea for next year’s visits. The bread choice made sure the chocolate didn’t soak in too much - the grilling gave it that perfect browning, as you’d get on a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Also checked out the new Green Pepper Rings from “Big Pepper”. No trouble finding the place…the huge Green Pepper has been a landmark over near the animal buildings for many years. I’m pleased to report they were absolutely wonderful…especially if you got them with the cheesy marinara sauce poured over them. I can’t wait to have these again next year…although they seem simple enough to make at home. Hmmmm….
- Kelly never had the Deep-Fried Oreos before, so we had to pick some up. (I had them a few years ago when they premiered) Wonderful as always, although Kelly claims the consistency wasn’t quite what she had imagined nor desired. That was OK, I finished off the tray. Yum.
- More Mac And Cheese-On-A-Stick from “Axel’s”. Just can’t get enough of that stuff!
- Same goes for the Turkey Sandwich from “Turkey To Go”. I think I had three of those luscious sandwiches…they make my heart go pitter-patter and my tummy go yummy.
- I don’t know what kind of crack they sneak into their cookies, but you can’t miss a trip to get your bucket of Chocolate Chip Cookies from “Sweet Martha’s”, over near the Grandstand. Oh, and here’s a hint people… the lines on the sides are always shorter than the lines in the front!
- Also in the doughy creations realm, a bag of “Tiny Tim” Mini-Donuts is a great way to get your cinnamon fill for the day.
- Kelly tried the Porkchop-On-A-Stick from both the “Porkchops and Turkey Legs” over near Adventure Park and the “Chicken
nChops” over near the River Raft Ride. She agrees that although the lines are considerably shorter at the “Porkchops and Turkey Legs” booth, the taste is worth waiting for over at the “Chicken nChops” stand.
- Finally, a big shout out to the wonderful ladies who work the “Root Beer Barrels” located around the fairgrounds. Putting up with hundreds of bees and thousands of impatient customers each day are just two of the difficulties these unsung heroes overcome each year to provide reasonably priced sodas and refills throughout the fairgrounds. To a weary state fairgoer like me, who often finds his portable liquid containment system empty on hot fair days, your well-positioned booths are always just a barrel roll away.
Before I knew it, all the lights were on, the sky was dark, and it was time to head home. 355 more days until I can go again…