The Minnesota State Fair is like catnip to journalists, which is understandable, as it is like catnip to Minnesotans. Is there any other state as profoundly obsessed with their state fair as us? At this time of year, Minnesotans seem to evolve into a different species of humanity that could perhaps be dubbed homo festivus civtias, if you’ll excuse the fractured Latin. In fact, we’re single-minded enough about the subject for WCCO’s Jason DeRusha to make his Good Question “Why are we so obsessed with the Fair?” Let’s peruse some of the State Fair stories that have emerged from the event’s opening day:
Karla Hult of KARE11 takes a look at seasonal employees at the Fair who have been recently lost their regular jobs — a startling 15 to 20 percent of Fair employees. She quotes one such employee: “One of my friends says I’ll enjoy unemployment again after the fair. We’ll see if that’s true. I don’t think so.” KARE11’s Boyd Huppert, in the meanwhile, introduces us to Ed Mosiman, who was born at the Fair in 1954 and has the birth certificate to prove it. “I was probably conceived here,” he tells Huppert, “I don’t know.”
“Ah, the sounds and smells!” says the Star Tribune, accompanied by an image of two nonplussed little girls plugging their noses while standing next to a micturating, or perhaps defecating, cow. The crux of the story, by Curt Brown, seems to be that the Swine Barn is unusually depopulated this year. “All I know is, we just came from the cow barn and it was full,” says one pig fan. “It might be all the swine flu talk keeping the crowd down in here.”
Paul Walsh of the Strib reminds us that “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien promised to perform his show from the Minnesota State Fair if he could get his body weight in bacon-covered chocolate. No Name Premium Meats of St. Michael did him one better — it provided O’Brien with a 305-pound bust of the TV host carved out of white chocolate with 5 pounds of bacon for hair. So will we be seeing the “Tonight Show” at the Fair? Nope. Studio execs declined to say why; one expects it is a mixture of the logistical difficulties in doing so coupled with outright, and justifiable, terror at the madness a glib on-air comment had wrought. Well, that’s the Fair for you.
Minnesota Public Radio’s Jeffrey Thompson offers a short video on how the State Fair judges choose the best baked goods. “Sometimes I get up in the morning, like this morning, and I thought, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing this?‘” one baked-goods entrant complains, listing her multiple entries. MPR’s Nikki Tundel visited the fairgrounds in winter, and offers up an unexpectedly haunting photo slideshow, while Cathy Wurzer peeks at some obscure places at the Fair in an audio piece accompanied by photos, including discovering that there is what looks like an Old West mercantile tucked behind the animal barns.
Molly Priesmeyer offers Vita.mn her list of things to do at the Fair. While she starts off by suggesting that Ye Old Mill might be a tradition that Fairgoers are not familiar with, which is a bit like suggesting that Lady Liberty is a statue that New Yorkers might not have heard of, she also details the “Go Girl.” This is a sort of a funnel invented for women who want to, well, micturate while standing, and is certainly a State Fair tradition we were unfamiliar with.
Priesmeyer also recommends the crop art as the best place to go to see celebrities — or, at least, versions of them created out of flax and fennel seed. But longtime Fairgoers know that the most likely celebrities to be seen are local politicians, glad-handing and one-at-a-timin’, as Pappy O’Daniel calls it. To put it simple, as the headline for John Croman from KARE11’s story puts it: “State Fair is one huge magnet for politicians.” “In a span of a few minutes during the noon hour Thursday KARE found two Democrats and two Republicans,” Croman tells us, “all vying to rise above the fray in the crowded field of contenders.”
The story quotes former state Sen. Steve Kelley as saying that he was amazed at the number of people who are coming up to him at the Fair to speak, considering it is a non-election year. And what do they want to talk about? Health care, which was also the subject of 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann’s first ever real town hall meeting Thursday, which was crowded to the point of overflowing. How did it go? Well, how do these things typically go? Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press describes it as having been a “a boisterous and sometimes angry argument,” while the Associated Press calls it “raucous.” The discussion sounds as though it was often civil with occasional punctuations of cheers, jeers and the distinctive paranoia that has marked these meetings. Tim Pugmire of Minnesota Public Radio offers one choice quote from a Blaine elementary-school teacher who is certain the Obama will remain president for more than two terms, “Whether by force, brute force or by a fraudulent rigged election.”
Anna Palmer of Roll Call introduces us to a St. Francis city councilman who came to the event clad in a tuxedo and rose to offer this comment: “I’ll be danged if I am going to give up my Social Security because of socialism.” According to the story, this was met with boos. The entire town hall meeting can be seen on Dusty Trice’s Web page.
Of course, no matter what else might be going on in he news, nothing will stop the Brett Favre reporting; the world could end tomorrow and the Star Tribune would give exactly two stories, the first describing the cataclysm, the second asking Brett Favre what he thinks about it. The latest? Reports of a “schism” in the Vikings locker room regarding who should start as quarterback. As Favre is apparently the source of this schism, which several Vikings deny even exists, the Star Tribune decided to go directly to the horse’s mouth and see what Favre had to say about it: “I’ve got no reaction,” he replied.