It is the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Twelve days of excess eating, riding rides, and touring exhibits that range from the quaint (think seed art) to the frankly goofy (again, think seed art).
There will surely be once again 1.7 million visitors who will leave sunburned, overly stuffed with fried foods and their wallets a whole lot lighter. Some will walk away with gigantic stuffed animals won after likely paying way more than the value of the toy playing Midway games.
We will all either walk to faraway parking lots, wait in lines to get on shuttle buses and, for those outside of the metro, drive hours to get to the Fair.
And in the end most of us will leave knowing we will be back next year.
We will be back, because the fair is a constant. As much as our lives change in a given year or over a decade the Fair remains much the same.
Yes, there may be a new ride or two, or some new foods to try, but for the most part fairgoers hit the same attractions each year.
Yes, there is sticker shock at the larger and larger bite the Fair seems to take every year to get in and park, eat, ride rides, eat more and ride more rides. Despite the Great Recession, attendance at the Fair has not dropped. We may be giving up a vacation or a weekend at the lake, but the Fair is not to be missed.
The Fair, with its huge animal barns, celebrates what most of us once were in Minnesota: farmers and settlers. Seeing the young 4-H kids asleep by their animals in the barn is a reminder that so many of us take our farmers today for granted. With the craft exhibits and talent shows, the fierce competition for blue ribbons in contests for everything from pickles to jam the fair honors traditions that go back generations.
And what to make of the eccentricities most exemplified by (what else) the butter sculptures? All I can say is, it’s only in Minnesota and it’s only once a year.
See you at the Fair.