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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Time and the Fair

I honored the last day of August this week by going for a walk on what was probably the most perfect day on the planet—at least in my neck of the woods. Today I’m plotting a Labor Day weekend getaway with my husband that will involve water, sky, and not too many crowds.

But last weekend, as we always do this time of year, we were at the State Fair, which I never expected to attend for so many years. When I first moved to Minnesota, some new friends called and offered to take me and I was charmed by the whole idea.

I’d only been to one county fair before that in Orange County, New York. That had seemed like a foreign country to a city kid, but it was still much more citified than what I see out here.

The State Fair out here is a huge deal, and of course there are rides and crowds and crafts and clothes and food all vying for your attention. Every kind of food imaginable is on a stick so you can walk, and there is never a place where you can hear silence.

But now and again you see the country poking through in front of you, and that’s what I like best. It’s in the tired faces of 4H kids who are resting at the end of the day near their prize (or hopefully prizewinning) sheep, chickens, pigs or cows. It’s in the signs next to the horses, telling you their names and the places where they grew up or were born.

You can also visit the Miracle of Birth Center (which we do every year) to see groups of suckling pigs swarming their exhausted mothers or brand new foals or calves or lambs. If you want a milkshake that’s fresh, you can go to the Dairy Barn and get one that may come from a cow milked very recently.

If you want, you can talk to some of the farmers who tend these animals and find out some interesting facts, like how pigs will eat absolutely anything (including each other) and how many stomachs cows have. You can also find out what it would cost you to raise animals on your own.

The flat art building (and it’s neighbor, crafts) are favorites for my husband, who piqued my interest through a game that's now become our tradition. We each walk through the building and choose our favorite piece of art; and then share it with each other to see if we picked the same one. Some years we have, some we haven’t; but I’m gratified to say we usually like and understand each other’s choices.

My husband nearly always has a corn dog (on a stick of course) and we both always have an ear of corn. (Why do they call it an ear? My next question for next year’s State Fair.) Milkshakes always give us stomach aches (we are a Zantac couple) but we have to have them anyway.

Some days I wonder what my New York buddies would say about this tradition, but I mostly think they would like it. Not because of the crowds (even thicker than on New York's streets, which takes some doing); not because you can get anywhere quickly or because almost anything you eat is going to pack on the pounds; but because even in the midst of craziness at the fair, you know life is slower and wider than it would ever be in real life.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get bored or want something new or that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the State Fair. I like it, where my husband would say he loves it and wants to go back. But having it bookmark the end of summer kind of helps you turn a corner toward the changing seasons, and makes August sweeter because you can spend a day there.

I guess it’s all about time, right? Prolonging the moment before September descends and you truly have to say goodbye to summer. And then you sigh and say, “Already?” And have no choice but to get on with your day.