I’m not sure exactly why I like the Minnesota State Fair. Most everything in my psychological profile would contraindicate even going to such an event, let alone liking it: introversion, hatred of crowds, a general disdain for and unwillingness to participate in popular culture. And yet I love it. I enjoy the crowd, the inevitable stifling heat (with this year being the hottest Fair on record), the human spectacle, and soaking in the experience that is unique to our state.
One thing that makes the Fair easy to like is the transportation. Despite massive attendance (with over 1.7 million visitors in a two week period, averaging about 150,000 a day), getting in and out is easy. It’s literally easier to go to the state fair than it is to visit the Mall of America on an average day, thanks to the well-placed park & ride lots and smooth-running shuttle buses. It’s all free, too – making for very little hassle.
What I truly enjoy, though, is that despite its size, the Fair is a conglomeration of local entities, with local employees and local stuff. Big corporations are represented there, to be sure – there’s a Culligan building and John Deere tractors and Gander Mountain stage shows – but it feels authentic despite those exceptions. There’s no Burger King or McDonald’s booth, and in an era of corporate sponsorship for everything (TCF Bank Stadium on a college campus for fuck’s sake), the Fair is still just the “Minnesota State Fair.”
It also is a reminder of Minnesota’s agricultural foundation, as both a link to the past as well as a window into that vast part of the state that cosmopolitan Twin Citians would often like to forget. I love it that an event attended by nearly two million people who mostly eat fried things and drink beer also has a building where people’s corn and soybeans are evaluated and compared. It’s refreshingly real; nobody is entering the dahlia or dairy goat contests ironically, but with clear-eyed earnestness that seems all but dead in the “sustainable urban core.”
The photography is a delight, with the variety of people, colors, textures, and generally weird shit. People photography is tough for an introvert like me, though, especially since most people react strangely when I’m wielding my massive SLR.
As an aside, if I hear one more time about “wow, that camera sure is big! holy crap! can you take pictures of the moon with that?,” I’m going to fucking puke. Yes, I know it’s big, that’s why my neck is so damn sore. Leave me alone! Another favorite line of conversation is “wow, that looks expensive! How much did it cost?” You’ve got an iPhone, asshole, look it up yourself. The model number is embroidered on the neck strap that I’m currently using to garrotte you.
Eating is obviously one of the highlights of the event (almost as an afterthought, he realizes). Deep-fried apple pie sounds horribly greasy (think of the old McDonald’s apple pies, before they were lawyered out of existence or something), but I can assure you that it was anything but – indeed, it was divine, the best thing I’ve had there in years.
I’m already looking forward to next year…