I have been going to the Minnesota State Fair ever since I was a little child, and every year it is a delight all over again. Long ago, my sisters and I put on our pretty little dresses, and walked with our mother to board the Snelling Avenue streetcar that took us straight to the fairgrounds. We rode the majestic State Fair Carousel (now located in Como Park).We ate until we were stuffed – pronto pups and candy floss, root beer and ice cream cones. We walked until we were exhausted, and then headed back home as dusk set in.
Through all these years, so much has changed, yet it’s always the same – it’s the great event that families look forward to all summer, it’s the last hurrah before the kids head back to school, it’s the perfect date for young lovers , and it’s the place to be for retired folks.
I remember when the open arena along Como Avenue hosted a circus tent with acrobats and jugglers, and circus animals. I remember the year there were camel rides. I remember the lean years when our children were small and we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat in the van that we parked in a lot on the grounds. We’d follow up with a visit to the all-you-can-drink milk for 25 cents stand. We would buy fresh Beacon apples at the Horticulture Building. Later the kids would get to choose a treat- would it be a rainbow cone, or candy floss, or a strawberry milkshake at the Dairy Building ?
And the freebies- oh, my, every one of our kids filled the free bags with more free goodies, and when we returned home they sorted and picked through them all- a ruler, a pencil, a recipe booklet. You name, they’d collected it.
Machinery Hill, the 4-H exhibits and performances, the free shows at the Education building, and the animal barns were must-sees every year .One time a herd of sheep got out of the pen and came bearing down on us as we scrambled to get out of the way.
Another family favorite was climbing the fire ranger tower. Our children never got tired, they loved it. We’d spend hours wandering the Midway. Each kid got to choose one ride and had to make sure they chose the right one.
While we never went to watch the stock car races, we’d always hear the racing cars drowning out every other sound around.
Now times have changed and our children are all grown up and they bring their families. Last year, I went to the fair with one of my daughters. Instead of a milkshake, she chose a Leinie. But not everything has changed. My husband and I still ride Ye Olde Mill, as we did when went to the fair together for the first time when we were teenagers. Ever old, ever new, we delight in the magic of our great Minnesota Get Together.
Mary Thoemke (email firstname.lastname@example.org), a lifelong resident of Saint Paul, is a free lance writer for the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
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