On Saturday morning, when we were walking the dogs, I said, "Let's go to the fair," and Doug looked at his watch and said, "It's kind of late, isn't it?"
He is the only person I know who thinks that 9 a.m. is a bit late for going to the fair. He likes to go for breakfast. He orders pancakes at that little diner over on the edge of the fairgrounds, the one with the old-fashioned counter and the round stools that twirl.
Anyway, despite the lateness of the hour, we brought the dogs home and got out the bikes and stuffed cameras and money into our pockets and pedaled off. We were there by 10 a.m. Not so late, though too late for pancakes.
So instead we had mini-donuts. And deep-fried cheese curds, dipped in lingonberry sauce. And chocolate malts. But first, before food, the Ag-Hort building. To see the crop art.
Crop art is an amazing thing to see. The portraits and scenes that people come up with, rendered entirely in seed, are quite fabulous.
I love this jar of pickles.
One year two people, two different people from two different corners of the state, both came up with the same idea: Edvard Munch's "The Scream," rendered entirely in seed.
This year, many of them tended toward political themes. But there were still plenty of portraits:
It is not every day you see Tiger Woods, picked out in seed.
Or Bo Diddley, for that matter.
After that, we rode through the tunnel of love (man it is dark in there! wowser) and took the skytrain from one end of the fairgrounds to the other.
It was not very crowded this early in the day.
We walked up Machinery Hill, and then of course hot-footed it for the animal barns. The animals are always the best part.
The sheep were being sheared and were making a bit of commotion, even though their heads were clamped in unnatural positions (to keep them still) and they couldn't really open their jaws to let out a big baaaaa.
The ducks appeared to be gossiping.
The chickens were great; noisy and clucking and eating and drinking and strutting and lots of crowing, which this little 20-second video will show you. (Watch the dark guy with the red comb, in the back.)
We somehow missed the pigs. We watched the rabbit judging; one rabbit kept trying to hop away and the young girl who was tending it would haul it back and settle it in front of her on the table and then it would try to hop away again and she would haul it back. They didn't look at each other; she was listening intently to the judge, and the rabbit was eyeing its options.
But she was a strong and fearless farm kid, and that rabbit did not stand a chance.
(The escape artist is the one with the upright black ears, the one who looks poised for takeoff.)
We walked through the horse building, where mostly your view is of horses' butts, because they're all in their stalls, and then we went outside and watched a guy walk around with a cow.
The smells are great--earthy and barny, smells of straw and manure and animal. It reminded me of the poem in "Charlotte's Web"--deep in the dung and the dark.
We stopped by the Fine Arts Building, where the Minnesota-made paintings and photography and sculptures are on display. The guy who taught art at my junior high school in Duluth usually shows a painting, and sure enough, he had one today, and it had a ribbon.
The oddest sculpture was the sock puppets in the meat grinder. Here's a picture:
I love that the Fine Arts Building is always so crowded. All these people coming in from the sunshine and the Pronto Pups and the Midway, packed three and four deep in front of watercolors and silver gelatin prints.
We forgot to check out the Butterheads, the life-sized carvings, in butter, of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court. The heads revolve slowly, endlessly, in a refrigerated case. And we skipped the Midway. That's a nighttime thing; the Midway is no fun without lit-up neon and flashing lights.
Later, Doug explained why he likes the fair. There are no luxury boxes, he said. No VIP suites. It's just a bunch of Minnesotans, walking around together.
And that's it exactly. The state fair is egalitarian. You have to set aside your snobbishness, your big city ways. You can't enjoy the fair and be a snob. There is nothing elitist about the fair; it's open hearted and sincere.
That's the main thing I love about it: it believes in everything it does. There's no point in going and looking at the butterheads and the crop art if you're going to sneer at them; there's no joy in that. With the right mindset, the fair is a very joyful place.
Black And White...
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