I like to go to the Minnesota State Fair on the first day. The pitches aren't tired and Early Bird Specials abound. The crowd is usually manageable. Besides, if the weather's bad I can go another day. Fortunately, the day was gorgeous. Today (the second day of the fair) is much hotter. The downside: Some of the things that take a while to develop, like the butter heads, are in a nascent state. Overall, I'm pleased with the timing. And I'll be back next week for Weird Al.
I got off to a late start, but made it to the Fair before 10am. Because I was a shade on a frazzled side, I didn't take complete note of where I parked. I remember "Meeker", the Minnesota County on the new U stadium, but didn't get a full mental layout. Why this is important will become clearer later.
Even though the Fair had only been open for a few hours, the gate by the park and ride entrance was the most crowded I've ever seen it. The Fair volunteers were directing people to the next gate up, only a block or so away. That was not crowded and those of us who made the hike got in much faster than those on the same bus who didn't. Still, I went in a completely different entrance than usual, between the Haunted House and the Dairy Building, and my usual Fair dead-reckoning was continually off. Why this is important will become clearer later.
The food at the Dairy Building is loaded with fat and/or sugar, so I rarely eat anything, but I do like to check into the butter head sculpting of the latest Princess Kay of the Milky Way.
Feeling a bit peckish, and wanting the Minnesota State Fair Experience, I had Shrimp on a Stick at the Grilled Shrimp booth. Butter garlic; a tasty snack that the BP Gulf Oil Disaster will impact next year.
I wanderer around a bit, but knew where I was headed: The International Bazaar. The best food deal at the Fair, imrho, is the Island Noodles. A major First Day coup (probably): One booth was selling the "Ultimate Squire Gun" with a demo. After I took a couple of pictures, one of the Fair staffers came over and told the kid that he couldn't squirt water into the open like that. People might get wet. Don't know if the kid ignored him or came up with another way to demo, but I probably have the last photo of the full squirt.
The first major decision of the day: I wanted to go see Al Franken at noon, and I wanted to see Lehto and Wright. I have their first album, from ten years ago. They're a local group that does Steeleye-Span-like celtic music as country and/or King Crimson. For three people, they make an awful lot of music. I decided to go to the 10:45 show, but had a few minutes, so went over to the Horticulture Building to see prize wining apples and watch various knife and pruning demos. Ran into Tim Wick and his mother, but was still eating the Stir Fry and didn't take pics.
Back at the International Bazaar for the music, I picked up two more Lehto & Wright CDs. The concert was great, and I spoke to Lehto for a few minutes after the show.
I wandered around a bit more, slipping through the Merchandise Mart without buying anything, though the helicopter was tempting.
Then Midday. Usually, the NPR booth is sparsely attended, and in previous years I've been able to get a seat close up. This year, not even an election year for either of our senators, Al Franken was a huge draw. He was knowledgeable and funny, and very much appreciated by the Minnesotans in attendance.
Afterward, I came up and shook his hand, urging him to keep swinging, and bemoaning that Obama's "post-partisan" politics had morphed into ugly "bi-partisan" politics. He too was sad, but not discouraged.
Next up: The Butterfly House. I knew more-or-less where it is, but couldn't find it immediately. So I spotted an Information Booth, stood in line, and asked a staffer for directions. She pointed across the street. "Ah, so I came to the right place", I said without too much embarrassment.
As usual, the best part of The Butterfly House is watching the kids. They were, for the most part, following the posted rules about how to get a butterfly on your finger. (Hold your finger in front of the butterfly, gently moving so you touch their front legs, and let them climb on.) Alas, too many butterflies were damaged, and too much of this was impatient adults grabbing the wings.
On the first day, there didn't seem to be as many butterflies as in previous years, and I didn't make butterfly friends as I had in previous years. When they landed on me, they picked odd places that I couldn't see or appreciate quite as much.
The butterflies had an insect mind of their own, and landed on odd places. My favorite image from this Fair.
I wandered around a bit more. At this point, even though I know the Fairgrounds moderately well, I was hopelessly lost and in places I rarely, if ever, have been to. I got to JD's Eating Establishment: "Definately nothin' on a stick". The service was lousy but the food was okay. I fulfilled another Fair tradition by having a "new" food: Cheesy Spinach Roll-Ups, served with actual metal flatware on the yellow picnic table inside the small area.
Just down the road was the Kidway. I've walked past it before, but never through it. Basically, the Midway for kids. Looked fun, if you were young enough.
By this time, it was 2:30; four and a half hours is a long day at the Fair for me. Time to head home. But I my dead reckoning was totally shot and I didn't know where I was. Consulting the Fairground map, I headed out of the Kidway to find... a parade. Of course.
Still, my Fair experience wasn't complete. No, I didn't get to large swaths of the Fair, even missing some of my usual haunts. But I hadn't scored any merch. I wound up in some hardware building, and bought a small padlock (for the storage area in the parking garage), several hematites (since my refrigerator magnets are losing their grip) and something that's been in the back of my mind for a while: A sort of Swiss Army Knife for eaters, with fold out knives, corkscrew, fork and spoon. I'll bring it to conventions, saving the con several cents in plastic utensils.
Passing the Corn Cob Recycling bin, I caught a little DNR music. Then to the busses (not even stopping to pet an alpaca) and to my car.
I got out of the Park and Ride bus, and found "Meeker" on the side of the stadium. My car was nowhere in sight. The parking lot didn't even look familiar. I'm generally pretty good at knowing where I am, and where I parked, which makes it all the more frustrating when I get lost. After stomping up and down the lot, I ask one of the parking lot attendants, hoping to get a better bearing. He asks when I parked; an astute question. We figure out that I'm in the wrong parking lot. I need to be across the street, where I would have a good view of the stadium to see "Meeker" and where staffers were directing cars about the time I arrived. With this solution, I went to the proper parking lot, walked directly to my car, drove back to the attendant to thank him, drove home.
Had dinner and watched a little tv. Went to bed waaay early and slept for ten hours.