Saturday, September 5, 2009

Great Minnesota Get-Together

The Great Minnesota Get-Together (a.k.a. The State Fair) is hitting its stride today. We went yesterday. Thankfully it was less crowded than opening day. Monday had a record breaking 114,000 people in one day - ed: total attendance = 1.8 million. The weather was nice: sunny but not too hot. The crowd was nice: crowded enough to be a crowd without needing to stop every 6 feet to wait for someone to get out of the way of our double-seater stroller. It was pretty much the same thing as always. Animals, Agricultural Supply Displays, Educational Booths (let's hear a big round of applause for the Metropolitan Mosquito Control agency - a group I'd never heard of), Rides, and Food On A Stick.

I know I never went to the Michigan State Fair, and I can't remember if I ever went to one in West Virginia. But, seriously, people here joke about the food-on-a-stick all year long. You can't go 10 feet without a vendor selling some food item on a stick. Sure, corn on the cob or chocolate covered frozen bananas I understand. But pork chops? Deep fried cheese? Deep fried cheese cake? Is this such a Minnesota thing?

Two of my favorite stops are the birthing barn and the Little Farm Hands. One might connect the two... The former however, being the 4-footed kind and the latter being the tax-deductible 2-legged ones.

Jr.Gopher#2 got to pet a 1-hour old piglet, a couple of adolescent bunnies (hey, why no baby ones?), get pecked by some day old chicks, and pet a 3 hour old lamb. Well, actually he tried to climb into the pen with the lambs. He stuck his finger into the cage with the chicks and giggled when he got pecked. Being brand-new, they weren't as lethal as full-grown chickens. He promptly stuck his finger back in, giggled, and then repeated it. He then started crying when he couldn't get his finger out.

The Little Farm Hands exhibit let the little kids play farmer. They got an apron & little metal feed bucket. Then a scoop of feed corn. Oh, and a John Deere sun visor. (more about that below)

They got to ride on a tractor-tricycle to carry the feed bucket & a miniature bale of hay.

Then they went through a chicken coop, gave the chickens some of the corn & collected a (wood) egg.

Then the sheep barn: fed the sheep & collected a bag of raw wool. The milking parlor let them hand milk a cow & collect a little container of milk.

Stopped at the vegetable garden: took a seed & trowel, planted the seed & collected a vegetable.
Went through the orchard: picked an apple.

Went to the market to sell the produce.

Fun 4 All.
Who cares if the stuff was all play-food (well, the feed corn was real ground corn), and the cow's udder produced water? The kids loved it. Fun 4 All. Especially when there's so much stuff that kids just don't find exciting. Sure, some of the exhibits look cool (e.g. 1915 tractor), but what good is it, if you can't climb on it, papa?

At the Little Farm Hands exhibit, a local mega-dairy had free samples of pelletized ice cream. The lack of sample spoons made it a much, much messier event with little kids. Tipping the little cup up to drop the pellets into the mouth works with adults. Not 2 year olds. No. - 2 year-olds use their fingers. Obviously the person organizing this was not a parent of small children.

Friday was Minnesota Public Radio Day. The Midday Show was broadcast from the Fair with Guest #1 being Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Who, when asked a question about electronic voting machines & their programming codes, said he was unfamiliar with the bill in question. He paused before observing that 'you'd think I'd be more aware of vote counting'. (Thankfully our new home state isn't stupid enough to use them.)

Culture Chasm:
Afterward, Mr.Gopher asked if I had heard of [Franken] before the election. He isn't one to ask trick questions, but this really left me confused.
Me: are you kidding?
Mr.G: no.
Me: well, yes, he's a comedian.
picture me looking confused like listening to my prof talking about Bayesian statistics...
Mr.G: but did you know him from his work as a comedian?
picture me looking confused that anyone our age has never heard of Al Franken
I then had to be reminded that, no, Saturday Night Live was not only not live, it wasn't even dead in Germany. And he was in the German Army when I was at WVU watching SNL. Stay tuned ... I'm sure I'll be sitting at some German soiree asking Mr.Gopher the same question.

Of course, there's always Minnesota's contribution to Western Civilization. Wild Rice? No. Hubert Humphrey? No. F.Scott Fitzgerald? No. Bob Dylan? No. Consistently the highest voter turnout in the country? No. ... Nope, we've got Spam. Or rather, SPAM. Made right here in Austin, Minnesota. Yeah, that would also be the same place where there's an outbreak of some exotic nerological human disease from exposure to aerosolized pig brains. Yum. yum.

Well, then again ... I'm not sure how many state fairs have Dung Beetles in their parades. Complete with Dung Ball. This little group was at the May Day Parade here in in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood (where we live). Now that I'm not surprised about.

How is it that a person lives in a state like Minnesota, manages to get to the state fair, and then looks at my kids' little green sun visors with the yellow john deere logo with deer horns and says "aw, cute, a moose"?

On the way out of the fair, we passed a fiddler in the parking lot. We stopped to let the boys listen to him. Being 3 feet away, they could actually see someone play. He did a little jig while playing (impressive). So, I asked Jr.Gopher #2 if he wanted to dance. He said yes. He likes to dance. So, he shakes his booty a bit and then holds out his hands for me. We're doing some simple steps (I'm leading) to a country/bluegrass sounding tune when I realize the fiddler is calling the steps. However, unlike the dancers following the caller, he was sort of providing a commentary on us. With a promenade and a do-si-do. I think we entertained him as much as he did us.

Jr.Gopher #2 passed out on the way home around 5:30. He woke up for about 20 min. at 11 p.m. What a tired little boy. It was a very long day. According to Jr.Gopher #1, it was boring. I guess that was the boredom in between squealing during the parade, jumping up & down at getting waaay too much sugar, trying to climb over the barrier to check out operating farming equipment, climbing on everything, and playing at the kids' farm.

Ah, back to school on Tuesday for both him and me...


Peter T said...

> It was a very long day. According to Jr.Gopher #1, it was boring.

When I asked him about the fair he asked me if we had been on any ride. "Can you remember any ride?" He could not (we hadn't been), which somehow limited his retrospective enjoyment. On previous fairs, we had been on the Ferris wheel with a view of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and the wheel hadn't been there again.

ccyager said...

So, have you heard about Norm Coleman's latest affliction? He has Bell's Palsy, which is a temporary paralysis of one side of the face. He was on the news the other night, doing his best to laugh about it. I have to admit, I was laughing along with him, but (slap my face!) not about what he was laughing about....