21 August 2010

It's nearly time.

I am a shameless Minnesota State Fair addict.  I don't even know why.  Generally, I don't care for hot, overcrowded, overpriced venues, but for some reason I get all giddy and weird at state fair time.  We live a solid three-hour drive from the state fairgrounds, so, unlike some people, I can't get to the fair every day.  I've considered taking a fair job just for that purpose, but school workshop days and Lifelight conflict, and I am also a Lifelight junkie and a fan of my job, so that doesn't work out.
The Minnesota State fairgrounds is bigger than the town where I live, which really isn't all that difficult, so I guess that's a poor comparison.  It doesn't change the fact, however, that the Great Minnesota Get Together is a whole lotta big.  There are lots of cool things to see, many free stages with live entertainment of all sorts, and free swag from bandanas to shopping bags, to yardsticks, to things the kids can build.
Nearly every year, someone in the family participates in the County Fair Talent Contest.  That determines the date we attend.  We have a little choice in the matter, so I try to shoot for Monday through Thursday whenever possible. One year we wound up performing on a Friday and the mass of humanity that day set a fair attendance record. That was not my idea of fun. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorites, as they are usually discount days.
As well as being a state fair junkie, I am also a cheapskate.  These two things may not seem to go well together, but I make it work.  Once we learn our date for the fair, I hit the website, downloading the schedules and scouring the contents of the Blue Ribbon Coupon Book.  I buy tickets ahead of time to save a few pennies, and plan my assault.  I spend the extra ticket to park on site and leave a cooler in the vehicle with water and snacks (now that I no longer have to push a stroller all day, which was handy for cooler hauling).  I advise my kids to pick treats that we can't find at home.  The Evil*Empire has cotton candy in the snack bar; go for a deep fried candy bar, spam nuggets, or falafel on a stick.  Exceptions are made for Sweet Martha's cookies by the bucket and State Fair French Fries, um, also by the bucket.  Although these are commonly-found foodstuffs, there's something special about the ones at the fair.
We refer to our family as "Seat of Our Pants Productions," but over the years I have learned that the state fair is not the place for spontaneity.   The place is too dang big. If one wanders aimlessly, he will quickly become exhausted and want nothing more than to claim a bench and remain there. Without at least a basic plan, about the time someone decides they'd like to check out an act on one of the stages, its too late to get there for the last showing of that group.  So we plan.  I have everyone else check out the schedule for ideas, and plot a route.  I allow for deviation if someone finds something interesting and wants to check it out, but I can be a bit of a Fair Nazi.  I tend to skip the livestock barns and ag/hort building; as a rural Minnesotan, I get plenty of exposure to those items on a fairly regular basis.  I go for the attractions we can't find at our local fairs.  Some of us always go on the skyride or space needle.  Who cares if we did it last year?  The fair from the air is always a kick (except for the acrophobics in the family.)
I must go now, to scour the map and plan the attack.  I shall return to you with tales of our conquest, and pictures of loot!