Tomorrow is the beginning of the annual “Great Minnesota Get Together”, also known as the State Fair. For folks that do not live here, it is hard to imagine the amount of annual interest this seemingly mundane event can draw. For the next two weeks, each and every local TV and Radio station will deem it necessary to broadcast live from the State Fair, as if it were the Superbowl & the Beatles had returned from the dead to play the halftime show.
For Minnesotan’s the State Fair is like the Hajj. All adults are obligated to make at least one pilgrimage to the fair every year to partake in greasy food, unearthly smells, and stare at pig testicles the size of basketballs. Not that they do any of this in Mecca, but perhaps they do. I’ve never been 😉
The first time I ever saw the fair I felt like an anthropologist that had stumbled upon an unknown culture deep in the Amazonian rain forest, that civilized man had never laid eyes on it. It was love at first sight. The pure tackiness of the fair goes well beyond kitsch, and approaches the sublime. I don’t go to the fair to mock it for what it is, I go to revel in it. This is middle America in all it’s Technicolor glory. I doubt there isn’t one aspect of our culture that isn’t hanging out there for all to see. Lord knows you wish some folks would tuck it back in, but there it is hanging out nonetheless.
Unfortunately, Mrs. 20 Prospect does not share my fascination with it. In fact, as much as I love the place, she despises it in equal measure. What can I say? I’m a State Fair rube. I often have people ask me what the point of the State Fair is. I mean, you go there every year, but for what purpose? I usually respond to this question with a tilt of the head, and a blank stare.
There is no point to the State Fair. It exists, and the mere fact that it does is enough to draw us in like moths to the flame.
It’s not the food, although we gorge ourselves on it.
It’s not the weather which will approach the temperature of the surface of the sun.
It’s not the musical acts, though we spend hours sitting on wooden park benches listening to them.
It’s not the rides, though we sometimes pay ridiculous sums of money to risk life and limb on them.
It’s not the animals, though we dutifully walk through each and every livestock barn and stare at the farm animals as if we were going to bid on them at auction.
It’s not the arts and crafts, though I make it a point each year to view the “seed art” in the 4H building, and take the pulse of rural Minnesota pop culture.
It’s not the 101 vendors selling everything from mops to John Deere tractors, although we bought our lawnmower there in 1995.
It’s not the people watching, although the freak show on the Midway pales in comparison to the folks watching it.
It’s not the parking, because the walk back to our car at the end of the day will be about as cheerful as the Bataan death march.
No, it’s not any of this stuff that brings me back. It’s all of it. It’s all of it in one place, mixed together in a blender, deep fried, rolled in sugar, and placed on a stick.