Friday, September 13, 2013

Harvest on a stick

The state fair is a big deal in Minnesota. I've been going most every year for my entire life. I went there with Lee one hot August afternoon, and a week later, on an even hotter afternoon, with my friend Tracy, who accompanied me to the International Cat Video Festival at the fair grandstand. (We agreed afterward that cat videos, like chocolate, are best enjoyed in small quantities.)

The fair is ten days of first-rate on a stick, mini donuts, cotton candy and caramel apples...grandstand shows with fireworks...carnival rides...barns full of prize cows, pigs, rabbits and sit-down diners...crop art, crafts, 4H and displays up the ying-yang. By no means does this definition sum up the fair, either. It is more than a place, more than an is like a theme park of surreal encounters, only it is all so very Midwestern and realer than dirt.

Just to give you an idea...the interactive bed bug display featured an actual dead bed bug encased in plastic for reference purposes, along with a mattress with strategically placed fake bugs so that you could see where they typically lurk in hotel rooms, plus two gentlemen standing by to answer any bed-bug-related questions one might have. As it turns out, they knew a lot about bed bugs, but were flummoxed by the concept of cat videos.

Anyway. Given that Minnesota is an "agriculture state," the Agriculture Building is the heart of the fair. One of its excellent, old-timey traditions is showcasing prize-winning corn, flowers, apples, honey, things baked with apples, things baked with honey, and so on. (I own an awesome cookbook written by Minnesota's most famous blue-ribbon baker, Marjorie Johnson--over the years, she has won 1,000 blue ribbons for her pies, coffee cakes, cookies, bars, rolls, breads, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, you name it. So far, I have made her Sour Cream Coffeecake, Frosted Brownies and Walnut Sandwich Cookies, all delicious. Only 97 recipes to go!)

This year, because of the ongoing bee crisis, the Ag Building had especially extensive displays on native and honey bees as well as cases of cozy things made with honey. I don't know about you, but I love looking at a prize-winning baked good. It puts my imagination into overdrive, just thinking how good it must have tasted to win that ribbon. Plus, it is all just so kitschy-quaint-Americana-charming, sometimes you feel like you just stepped out of your Studebaker with your Betty Grable hairdo into the year 1948.

I could write a lot about the fair, but seeing it is so much more interesting than anything I have to say.





  1. Quite a colorful journey!! Love seeing the old labels, cans and bags.

  2. egads, look at the size of those pumpkins! i once told my husband I wished to preserve the likes of those big flat fairy tale pumpkins and use them as foot rests :) looks like you had a gorgeous journey. I love all the Americana bits, there's something very romantic and nostalgic about it all. Mmmm, pastries, too.

    1. Thank you, Valerianna and Raquel. The nostalgia factor is one of my favorite things, and its part of the fair's completely low-to-no-tech, handmade, human feel. I value that so much these days.

  3. Love this, Carmine! Rural fairs are on here too, and I have loved them since I was a toddler yearning for honey candy. These photos are gorgeous, and they bring back happy memories.


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