State Fair

Photo by Mike Johnson

By Mike Johnson

Besides the best corn dogs in the world, the Minnesota State Fair holds the best memories.

Located in Falcon Heights, Minnesota (St. Paul area), itís the second largest state fair in America by attendance.
Texas is #1 but only because it lasts twice as long (24 days).
Minnesotaís fairgrounds are 322 acres. Texas has just 277.
Iíve spoken with vendors who serve both venues and they universally favor Minnesota.

The Minnesota fair starts in late August and runs 12 days through Labor Day. This year it runs August 24 thru Sept 4.

As a kid, the state fair was Christmas, Easter and Halloween all rolled into one. Now sprinkle it with the same excitement and astonishment as attending a major league Twins game.

So of course, we were all over it. The state fair provided the very best reason to save money throughout the year.

I think I started attending by age 11, after securing my own income stream via paper route.

Our dads werenít going to take us, so Dave & I figured out complex city bus transfer schedules to get there ourselves.

As an adult, I try to go every other year or so. Itís a thousand-mile journey so it takes a bit of work to make it happen.
I attended last year.
This year Iím monitoring it from home. I always regret not going.

But enjoying older memorabilia and memories, along with current fair news and photos, provides about half the fun with none of the work and expense.

Much has changed over the decades but much has remained the same.

Tom Thumb Donuts. Pronto-Pups. The ďAll-the-Milk-You-Can-DrinkĒ booth.
The skyride. The Zipper. The midway skill games.
Tractors, cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles & ice-fishing RVs on display.
Local radio and TV celebrities broadcasting live at the fair.
Hundreds of product booths selling unique items in the Grandstand.
All types of livestock and live entertainment.

They call it Minnesotaís Great Get-Together. In a state with a population of 5.7 million, more than 2 million attend the fair each year.

Dave and I's favorite shared memory is when I puked on our ferris wheel seat with no warning.
We had to dangerously spring off our butts, while spinning 100 feet in the air, to keep the sloshing vomit off our pants.

Being kids, we thought this was hilarious.
Then we heard a woman below whine, "Ewww... Something's dripping on me!"

Whatever internal organs weren't expelled with the vomit were now expelled with the laughter.
It was an epic, legendary, memorable moment.
Fifty years later, if either of us mimic that woman's whine, we double over into an uncontrollable chuckle-ache.

There are many other shared, epic, state fair memories. Conveniently, Dave still lives there so we always pair up when I revisit.

Whenever I skip that fair, I hunger for another.
For the past 20 years, Iíve been wanting to attend the Texas State Fair just to compare it to Minnesota's.
Plus itís in Ft Worth, next to Dallas, so I can revisit the JFK sites.

So here I am considering it again. The Texas State Fair runs during most of October.
But it's 1,300 miles away, so even more work to make it happen.
And there's no shared memories there. No past euphoric feelings to relive.

Perhaps that's why I've never made the journey.

It's not a fair comparison.


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