Friday, September 3, 2010

It gets in your blood

Every year, for ten days in August, thousands of people, from all over the state and outside of the state, go through the turnstile to enter the Minnesota State Fair.

Their adrenalin is high. They have waited for this day all year.

Everything is there. Every imaginable exhibit. Every imaginable, daring, thrilling ride. Every imaginable carny barking his promise of a prize every time!

Every imaginable hawker demonstrating gadgets and gimmicks. Found only at the Fair! Special Fair price! Not available in stores! Step right up! Buy it here!

Every imaginable food, and some you could never even imagine. Deep-fried. Served on a stick. Food you would never find anywhere else but the State Fair, once a year. That's probably a good thing.

These days, many of the food stands are owned and run by restaurants and various food franchises. But in days gone by, many of these booths were sponsored by churches. Staffed by members who volunteered their time, cooking, baking pies, waiting tables and cleaning up at night, it was a major fundraiser for the church.

Our church was one of those. Photo ca. 1957

From my earliest memory of the Fair to only a handful of years ago, the church operated their food stand in this manner.

Each year, a member of the Ladies Aid took on chairmanship, a demanding role with a huge commitment of time: scheduling workers, determining how much food to order, paying bills, keeping books. Only in its later years did they hire a coordinator to oversee the effort, but the work continued to be staffed by volunteers. My Dad fried hamburgers and onions on the grill, every year for at least twenty years.

Our stand was famous for its hot roast beef sandwiches. People came back year after year, their mouths watering for what they remembered was the best sandwich anywhere.

Once we girls were about 12 years old, we could volunteer as waitresses. We could hardly wait until we were old enough, and then it was great fun to sign up with one of our friends and play waitress for a day. The church even reimbursed our admission cost, so when our shift was done, we were free to discover all the Fair had to offer. Although the adults donated any tips they received back to the church, we weren't that charitable. Our tips became our spending money for food and rides in the Midway.

When we went together as a family, it was to explore all the free things the Fair had to offer. The cattle barns, horticulture building, dairy building, and machinery hill.

This photo was taken of me and my brother on Machinery Hill in 1958.

People have very unique and special memories of the State Fair. Perhaps they met a sweetheart there. Or a secret lover. Rode on a boat through the "tunnel of love," as I did with a boyfriend or two. Or even attended on their honeymoon.

It gets in your blood. You simply can't stay home when the State Fair is occurring. You are driven to go. You may miss something if you don't.

Ask my sister, Christine. Labor pains with her first child didn't stop her. Her husband got a wheelchair for her and they walked through the fair, labor well underway. A few hours later, Josh was born. But she didn't miss the Fair.

A group of Minnesotans recently got together to try to recreate a celebration of the Minnesota State New York City!

Like I said. It gets in your blood.