As a native of Iowa — which has its own extravagant state fair tradition — I was not planning on attending this year’s Minnesota State Fair, assuming that all state fairs are practically identical.
Still, many of my Minnesotan friends hail the 12-day fair as a quintessential late summertime event. This summer, their urging finally pushed me to see what the hype was all about.
After I spent 45 minutes searching for a free parking spot — a fair tradition, I learned — I made my way to the fair’s gates where I was greeted by throngs of fair-goers and a sea of different food vendors to choose from.
As a vegan, I was ready to be underwhelmed by the food options. Regardless, I purposefully came with an empty stomach.
Almost at once, I was taken aback by the array of food items advertised as “on a stick.” There were grape leaves, frozen bananas, beer from Summit Brewing and yes, even salad. I decided on one of the less daring “things” on a stick: roasted corn. Munching the cob voraciously, I ended up with corn between many of my teeth — a sacrifice I was willing to make for the flavorful, buttery corn cob.
A tip for next year: bring floss.
There were so many novelty foods to try that it was easy to forget about the prize animals on display — the original purpose of state fairs in the first place. That is, until I found myself in the “CHS Miracle of Birth Center.”
A cow giving birth transfixed an audience. They could be heard murmuring “ooh” every time another inch of the calf appeared.
Some areas of the fair were more disappointing than others, like the Pet Pavilions. I was expecting small dogs in hats jumping through circles of fire and cats walking on two legs, but unfortunately the Pavilions' sole purpose was to sell people extra-large cat towers and bedazzled dog collars.
My fair day was completed by a ride on the big Ferris wheel, which boasted a captivating view of the fairgrounds. Looking down at the Minnesota State Fair from above, I felt a sense of calm and accomplishment. I'd walked a lot — with swollen feet and a swollen belly.
The final sight as I made my way to the exit gate was two male performers singing operatically in German — part of the “Giant Sing Along” attraction. An odd but somehow fitting end to a whirlwind day.
The Minnesota State Fair did live up to the hype. It arrives at the perfect time — right at the end of summer. You leave exhausted but fulfilled, having gone on rides, eaten food until you've reached — or exceeded — your limit and endured all of the stimuli your brain can handle. It’s summer’s last hurrah before life becomes more serious again.
Here’s to celebrating summer and looking forward to fall.