Inevitably, each year when state fair time rolls around, someone new gets wind of my, um, obsession. "You go HOW many times?!" is the usual turning point in what started as a benign conversation about weekend or evening plans. It seems to be a commonly held notion that 7 or 8 visits is 6 or 7 visits too many. When asked why I like it so much, I usually wax nostalgic about college boyfriend. He grew up blocks from the Heritage Square gates, and was positively giddy when he talked about the fair.
The first summer I stayed up here--partially because I couldn't stand the idea of being away from him for 2.5 long months--there was a steady buildup to Fair time. Not many things can hold up to that much advance buzz, but it did. We had what is still one of my perfect dates of all time there late that August. He knew all the best spots for out of the ordinary food, introduced me to spin-art (a booth I once spent an entire evening at with a friend, not once realizing we were getting more and more silly as the hours went by because of the paint fumes...), won me one of those tacky stuffed animals, and pulled me close at the top of the ferris wheel for a kiss. It was a night out of some hollywood hack's teen angst movie, but it's cliche for a reason. that stuff works on teenage girls. heck, it would probably still work on me now.
Our last stop of the night was the Coliseum--tacky vendors ring the hallways of the building used for the horse show. We moved from one to the next, laughing at sales pitches, before we reached our destination. Now, I'm sure this was his signature move, and I shouldn't have fallen for it (especially since he used the same move on my then best friend a few years later), but alas, the power of the pearl diver's booth was too much for me. For a mere $5.95 you could reach in a grab an oyster guaranteed to contain at least one pearl. (and what a bargain, they could set them in various earrings, rings, pendants and necklaces while you wait!) white, champagne, blue, pink, black and silver. I think I pulled out at least one of each that night. I was hooked. and giddy. whoever discovered oysters to be an aphrodisiac wasn't kidding.
Until last year, when they failed to show up, it remained one of my favorite fair places. And yet, even without it, I am still enamored with everything about the fair. On Saturday, as i was sharing it with older brother for the first time, I realized why. A childhood spent behaving so as to be allowed to accompany him and his motley crew to various outdoor music festivals, king among them, Summerfest, clearly preprogramed me to appreciate the experience just a bit more than average.
Thank goodness Minnesota has done away with 3.2 beer. I wouldn't have wanted to explain that crime against nature to my wisconsin beer country l(o/i)ving sibling.