Traditions Leave Forever Memories on your Heart
For me, the sweltering hot dog days of summer remind me of the fair. I grew up in California’s capital city of Sacramento, and they put on a fantastic state fair. Because it was only minutes from home, it was easy for a few of us girls to go multiple times—sometimes even twice in a day (as long as we could afford the entrance tickets). It was a happy time because the fair always seemed to start right around my birthday and end on Labor Day, just in time for school to start.
The actual name of the California State Fair site is California Exposition, or “Cal Expo” for short. It’s 350 acres of grounds with food vendors, carnival rides, barns housing prize-winning farm animals, an amphitheater, and a one-mile track for racing motorcycles (this California Girl loves me some motorcycle racing), horses, and monster trucks. There is absolutely no way a person can’t find something to do! I should know. I have done it all at Cal Expo, including work!
When I was 15, a friend introduced me to a family who had a cucumber farm on the outskirts of the city, and the state fair was their biggest market. (Yep, for those of you who don’t know, pickles are fermented cucumbers.) Their “Giant Pickle” booth was so popular. So guess where I worked during that state fair? Yep! I sold giant pickles! I would take a pair of tongs, grab a huge, crunchy dill out of an extra large brine-filled glass, and wrap it in a thin sheet of waxy white paper. “Here ya go. That’s fifty cents please”. What a bargain! Plus, it was easy to make change when most people bought at least two, and they handed me a dollar! Math has never been my strong suit.
Then there were the carnival rides and barns. I wasn’t really into the rides, although I really enjoyed the log flume on those 100° days. My true love at the fair was the barn with the farm animals. Goats. Cows. Pigs. Horses. Sheep. Chickens. I loved them all.
When night came, the fair took on a different feel, because that’s when the music started. Oh the tailgating, porta potties, and big hair coated with hair spray. On those warm summer nights we headed to the amphitheater and jammed to the head banger Cal Expo concerts that blew out my ears. Still today, whenever I hear that 80’s head-banger music play, I always crank it up way too loud.
My younger years in CA prepared me for my current life in MN. I now spend the end of the summer going to this state fair, or as we like to call it, "The Great Minnesota Get-Together". Grab yourself a hot buttered, salt-seasoned cob of corn with an extra large, fresh- squeezed lemonade and listen to what I now experience from my August 24th birthday to Labor Day.
First, the fair is 12 days long, and I will go at least 10 of them (sometimes even twice in one day). This MN fair is filled with the craziest food you could imagine, and mostly all on a stick: pronto pups, pork chops, chocolate covered bacon, deep-fried snickers, deep-fried olives, key lime pie, giant bucket-o-fries, mini donuts, alligator...the list goes on. It’s a trip to “flavor town” every single day! In case you were wondering, yes, drum roll please, those giant pickles that I sold when I was 15-I now, get to eat them ON A STICK!
Next, it’s the barn animals. Sure, Cal Expo had them, but the plethora of barns and animals at the Minnesota State Fair blows Cal Expo away. I estimate that the animal barns in MN take up almost a quarter of the fairgrounds. Every single year you will find me kissing a goat. No lie, they love me! Maybe it’s the unwanted hair I have on my chin, but I’m telling you, they love me. I could spend hours with them.
The grounds have small stages scattered throughout, so you can always hear music as you’re walking around. But the evening concerts at the Grandstand are legendary. Aretha Franklin. Poison. Blake Shelton.The Beach Boys. Willie Nelson…. Just like the food, the list of first rate performers goes on (check this out.) My girlfriends and I will always attend a concert (not as much hair spray this time), and dance like fools. Last year it was Lionel Richie. You should’ve seen us singing along to the Commodores’ 1977 hit song, “Brick House”.
Thing is, I am not the only one who loves the state fair. We have the largest attendance, and generate the highest revenue per day than any other fair in the nation. Millions of people walk through the arched gates for 12 consecutive days to ride their favorite ride, eat their traditional fair foods, watch a concert, or just kiss a goat. It can be 60° and raining, or it can be 95° and sunny (with 100% humidity), and The great Minnesota Get-Together still goes on.
This year is different. It’s cancelled. Only five times before has the Minnesota State Fair not taken place. Twice for the Civil war. Once because of a conflict with The World’s Fair schedule. Once for World War II. Once for the Polio epidemic. This year it’s the Coronavirus pandemic.
I will greatly miss not walking my socks off in the rain or shine this year. It is one of my fondest summer traditions that has to be put on hold. I will miss the concerts, I will miss the food, but most of all, I will miss kissing the goats!
I love that you were with me today. See you tomorrow!
Lisa A.K.A. Loopie