All last week, Nora had me getting antsy for the fair with her daily updates from Indiana. Today, James Lileks upped the ante with this, as our fair is officially underway, and I'm not there! Lileks lists a myriad of reasons to go to the fair on the first day, all of which I embrace. The biggest reason for me, however, is that the first day of the fair is always Thrifty Thursday, and I am nothing if not cheap.
I am a relative newcomer to the Minnesota State Fair. I attended my first one right before my sophomore year of college, twenty years ago, with friends I had met working at Valleyfair. We went on Labor Day, when everyone was clearing out inventory and antsy as heck to pack up and get out, but it was enough to whet my interest. A few years and a couple of kids later, we went with friends and I was officially hooked. It is an awesome and relatively cheap place to go see a concert. You can troll for free stuff all day. A few years ago (10? no way...), I learned of the County Fair Talent Competition, and we began to "earn" our trips to the fair. This year marks three times for me, three for Thing 3, one for Thing 1 on her own, and this year with Thing 2 as a duet. If, by chance, we don't have a winning year, we likely go anyway, especially if we have an exchange student, as the State Fair is a quintessential part of the Minnesota experience. Poor iPastor almost always winds up with a headache, but he's a pretty good sport and follows along dutifully.
As any major venue, food and drink is incredibly overpriced, but skinflints like myself can find a way around that. We used to park free on the U of M campus and take a shuttle, but after a few trips carting strollers on a bus, we soon determined it is a good investment to pay to park on site and have relatively quick and easy access to the van. In my van, I can keep a cooler full of water and snacks, and avoid paying $4 for a glass of watery pop. Granted, much of the fun of the fair is trying new food or eating in an awesome church kitchen, but we have managed to control the money hemmorhage by limiting ourselves to purchasing only something really special and snacking out of the cooler just for munchies and drinks. Corn dogs and cotton candy I can get at WalMart. There is a church stand by the Eco building with awesome meatball sundaes; fair fries and Sweet Martha's cookies are not to be missed. We used to buy sweet potato fries at a stand by the horse barn (most vendors stay in the same spot for years) until they became more widely available at restaurants. I still go there for their sweet potato pie...yummm. This year I may actually try the deep fried alligator or hotdish on a stick. I'm always up for something new. Now I'll be anxiously counting the days until next Thursday. Things 1 and 2 will be singing Tuesday, so they are going with friends. I'm jealous.