Can you believe it’s August already? We still have a full six weeks, at least, of warm weather. But when August arrives … well, you know it’s the denouement. Not the exposition, not the climax. There’s no getting around the fact that summer’s show is closing, and autumn’s is waiting in the wings.
Here in Minnesota, the end of summer is celebrated in one big bash in St. Paul: the Minnesota State Fair. St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the “great get-together” in 1928’s A Night at the Fair:
The first lights of the evening were springing into pale existence; the afternoon crowd had thinned a little, and the lanes, empty of people, were heavy with the rich various smells of pop corn and peanuts, molasses and dust and cooking Wienerwurst and a not-unpleasant overtone of animals and hay. The Ferris wheel, pricked out now in lights, revolved leisurely through the dusk; a few empty cars of the roller coaster rattled overhead.
I’m a fan of the fair on Facebook and have been getting regular updates. Commenters are already plotting their pilgrimages. They’re buzzing about their ingenious plans to avoid the crowds, what shows they’ll go to see, which animal barns they’ll visit, and of course, what they’ll eat.
Me, I love the animal barns the best. I grew up in suburban Chicago. So seeing the 4-H and other farm kids with the animals they’ve raised and take care of is a treat. It reminds me how different people’s lives can be in this country and how hard farm families work. The farm kids seem so practical and competent, but they are always having a good time.
The fair has several large barns full of animals. Exotic chickens with head feathers that look like 1960s ladies hats. Sleek, skittish horses. Placid cows. Silly sheep all cleaned up and ready for competition. The ever-popular pig mama with her pink babies. The shy llamas with their long eyelashes. But my favorite by far are the goats. While many other animals seem wary of the visitors trooping by, the goats are on their hind legs against their pen walls, calling out to people to come a little closer. Who are you? Whadda ya doing? What’s in your purse? Is that camera edible? Noisy, curious, and fearless, goats are the animals I’d raise if I had a hobby farm.
Beyond the animal barns, there are pie baking contests, horse-riding competitions, midway games, educational programs, rides, concerts…. Of course, all that walking makes fairgoers hungry. Cheese curds, corn on the cob, Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies, walleye on a stick, Pronto Pups, and mini-donuts are perennial Minnesota favorites. I’m not much for fried foods, but if it’s creamy and sugary, I’m there. So I always make my way, no matter how big the crowds, to the Dairy Barn for a milkshake. As one commenter said, the shakes make you want to kiss the cows!
Ferris wheel photo, above, courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair.
Lerner associate, talented photographer, and faithful fair-goer Alison Behnke has more great shots of the fair here.