Wandering into the Empire Commons first (instead of last), and with all the barkers still fresh, I landed A Deal On A New Gadget. L'il Sucker, The Ultimate Drink Holder. Basically, it's a small rubbery disk, sort of like a jar opener, but with a hole in the middle. You put a can of soda or bottle of something in the hole, leave the plastic low enough to skirt the can/bottle but still make contact with the surface, place the Sucker on a smooth surface, and suction holds it down. It could hold a can on a moving boat or in the wind. To lift, just use your finger to peel the disk off the surface (breaking the vacuum). Pretty neat, if I ever find myself in a boat. And because I was there before 10am, I got the Early Bird Special of Five for $10. What a deal, if I ever use them... the guy tried to sell me some hats from Australia, too, which were pretty good but not better than my Tilley Hat.
Usually, by the time I make it to the Dairy building, it's crowded. This year, I arrived early enough to get close to the butterheads. Of course, this being the first day, I saw the rough outline of Audrey Somebody, who was speaking into a mic as she posed, thanking the woman who had been making butter sculptures for the Fair for 35 years. The lines were short, and today was a 2-for-1 special on Yogurt. So I didn't have an of the Fresh Milk stuff, but I did have a decent snack.
Walking down the street, pausing only for a shrimp cocktail, I wanted to have an actual breakfast/lunch meal at the International Bazaar. Unfortunately, most of the interesting restaurants were gone. For various values of "interesting", I suppose. I did manage to fulfill a long-standing mission: I bought a new wallet. At least 8 and perhaps 10 or more years ago, I got my current wallet at the Bazaar, and in the ensuing time have managed to send it through the wash. It's been holding up, but I've needed a new one for a while, and last year I didn't find it; perhaps it was simply too crowded and I didn't get close enough to the sales lady to ask. In any event, the same place had the same wallet (or a very similar style) and so picked one up. Whee!
I talked to the Peruvian flute people for a while (about the new restaurant that opened near here, hoping they could connect and decorate their place) and the guys who make these neat percussion crickets and frogs. It's still early enough in the Fair that they sounded enthusiastic. I eventually got two Vietnamese Spring Rolls, but that wasn't enough for a good meal.
I wandered across the street and was met by... bchbum_98! We were both a bit croggled to actually find each other, and talked for a while. He wanted to go to the debate on NPR at noon (close to where we were standing), and eventually ducked off. I sat down at the counter and ordered a Real Meal: Steak and Eggs. For Fair Food, it was pretty good. I was filled. Sitting next to me was the guy who runs the booth with the percussion crickets (remind me before a party, and I'll bring them). He doesn't do internet or mail order. He only goes to fairs. I sympathized, but tried to get him to notch up his marketing. A podcast/promotional CD of the instrument sounds would be great.
I made it to Tonic Sol-Fa into their first song. They're great a cappella singers, and really know how to work a crowd. I always enjoy their concerts (at the Fair, anyway), and picked up another CD. During their concert, it started raining. Lightly at first, but then harder. Umbrellas popped up and I covered my camera with a trash bag. They had a very large audience and few of them left even when the rain got too heavy.
Partly because of the rain (I think) or because it was their first set of the Fair, it didn't fill the hour, leaving me time to duck into the Agriculture Bldg for a bathroom break and to see the Crop Art.
I arrived at the MPR site before the debate started, and got a front row seat next to Nick Vlcek, a photographer for City Pages (he gave me his card). I was there for the second hour of Midday, hosted by Gary Eichten, with four candidates running in the DFL primary to replace Martin Sabo in the 5th Congressional District. All four candidates were pretty good, and all four of them better than the Republican (who I interviewed on Shockwave). I'd still give the nod to Keith Ellison (who I also interviewed on Shockwave) with Mike Erlandson second.
They asked for questions from the audience. I still had a few left over from my interviews, so I prefaced mine by citing the recent court decision re illegal wiretapping and asked, "Who would you impeach first: Bush or Cheney".
Eichten, as he usually does, tried to put a conservative spin on the question asking only about the impeachment of Bush. Erlandson was the only one to pick up on the "or Cheney" part, correctly saying that Cheney is the smarter of the two (by a lot) and should go first. Reichgott Junge said their should be an investigation first, to determine wrongdoing: Wrong answer. That's the first legalistic step, but the battle to save the country should be engaged fully. Ostrow talked about "accountability" and Ellison was the most passionate about holding our leaders accountable. They all softballed the question, but I did think it made them more contentious with the Republicans and not just amongst themselves. In the debate, Ellison, as usual, was the most passionate while Erlandson came off as most knowledgeable.
Midday will repeat this evening, and I think they archive it.
Back to the Bandshell for Brave Combo (website still www.brave.com/bo). Not as big a crowd as Tonic Sol-Fa, which is a shame. Much as I like the a cappella group, Brave Combo is a much better set of musicians. They played all sorts of fun polkas, including the Peter Gunn Theme, and the Chicken Dance and so on. And it didn't rain much. I picked up two of their CDs. Whee!
By this time, I'd been at the Fair for four hours, not a record but still longer than usual. I started down a corner of the Fair I usually don't get to, in the vague search for Some Food I've Never Had Before, and wound up in the Butterfly exhibit. Wonderful! They've had a smaller outdoor netter-off area for butterflies in years past, but this year it was closer to Butterfly World I went to near Miami. A separate large room, with gift shop and cocoons for sale, had LOTS and LOTS of very pretty butterflies. Which would land on you, if you were patient. Young kids would collect them, have six or ten butterflies perched along their arms and head, and strut tentatively but proudly. I started to feel jealous, and nudged one butterfly onto my finger. Soon, another landed on my hat (I was told) and another on my chest and another on my side.
I didn't want to leave, and strutted tentatively but proudly. I talked with several fellow butterfly perches, mostly young kids towing parents gleaming with pride. "Did you know that there's a Magic Butterfly that talks? It doesn't talk very loud, so you have to listen closely." I don't think any of the kids bought it (except maybe the very young), but the parents were smiling. It was magical.
Leaving the Butterfly hall, I wandered aimlessly, still looking for a culinary delight. The kicker was that it had to be something I actually wanted to eat, not just something I haven't tried yet. It didn't have to be new this year, just new to me. But, alas, I was thwarted. Nothing looked particularly good. The second Brave Combo CD was my splurge of the day, and I didn't just want to throw money at something I wouldn't enjoy. I headed back.
I tool pictures of much of the day and look forward to trying out the Suckers and listening to the CDs. Several people took my picture with butterflies. I'll say it again: Whee!