If you haven’t gotten the sense that out annual State Fair Fever has struck, you haven’t been reading or watching the news. Fortunately, that’s all we at the Glean do, 14 hours a day, seven days a week, trapped in a tiny room in the basement of the MinnPost compound, drinking old bread and eating old water and never getting any breaks except, of course, to visit the Fair. We’ve wondered how the Fair got started, and apparently so have a lot of people, so WCCO’s intrepid Good Question guy, Jason DeRusha, set out to answer that question. We won’t give away the answer, but here’s a hint: It involved crops.
Seeing Jason DeRusha at the Fair will earn you one of the spots under “G” on a bingo card, by the way. The card is by blogger Bill Roehl of Lazy Lightning, and includes such typical Fair landmarks as the butterhead sculptures, goats, and sheep in Spandex.
You might also see a lot of people wandering around, staring down at their smart phones. There’s a good chance they’re texting, and it’s a pity we can’t collect the various texts sent out over the next week. (We imagine a lot of them are like this: “OMG i ate a camel on a stick!”) Some people, however, will be making use of the handy State Fair app, as pointed out by Pioneer Press tech guy Julio Ojeda-Zapata, which, as his story points out, will help you locate the Moo Booth.
One of the Fair’s annual traditions, the crowning of Princess Kay of Milky Way, has already happened. The Associated Press story also explains what, exactly, the position entails: The winner — this year it’s a college student named Katie Miron — will be the “official goodwill ambassador for Minnesota’s nearly 4,700 dairy farmers.” That does sound exciting, although it’s a little disappointing for those of us reared on David Bowie and Marc Bolan, who imagined the position involving an interplanetary voyage with a glam rock band. Well, nobody says Katie can’t wear glitter and platform boots as she gets her butter sculpture made. Please consider it, Katie; don’t be immune to our consultations, although we’re sure you’re quite aware what you’re going through.
Joe Fryer of KARE11 takes a look at what’s new at the Fair, and finds something called the Choo Choo Bob Show, which sounds like some sort of deranged children’s variety show, but is, in fact, a collection of model trains. Fryer interviews one child and gets this hopeful response: “I like trains.” We’re especially pleased the child actually answered the question, as you can never be sure what a young person is going to bust out with.
“Lots to Do,” FOX9 helpfully tells us, “Lots to Eat!” Reporter Rob Olson provides a breezy and somewhat ill-informed look at the Fair, at one point asking, “Where else can you go and just stare at fish?” prompting one man to respond, “No place else.” Er … Mostly, Olson talks about food: cookies, cheese curds; it’s a pretty common State Fair obsession, especially with our unique tradition of putting anything on a stick, which we at the Glean believe to be a longstanding misunderstanding of what President Theodore Roosevelt meant when he said “Speak softly and carry a big stick” at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 2 of 1901. WCCO offers up a look at some of the new Fair options, including the aforementioned camel on a stick and deep fried bologna on a stick. But who makes sure the food is edible, asks WCCO’s Liz Collin. The answer may surprise you: It’s the Minnesota Department of Health.
Come to think of it, that’s not surprising at all.
WCCO basically lives at the Fair for its duration, so it’s no shock they’re offering a lot of coverage, including asking, “What’s the oldest thing at the Fair?” We were going to joke that the answer was Don Shelby, but it was Shelby who filed the report and he actually made a similar joke himself, so the real answer seemingly is the Hamline Church Dining Hall, which has been at the Fair for 113 years. One of the newest things at the Fair, in the meanwhile, is proving quite popular: The Star Tribune’s Jeremy Olson discusses the phenomenon that is the DNA booth, where researchers from the University of Minnesota collect DNA samples from children as part of a research program on human genetics. One presumes that they do this with the knowledge that it may turn out a certain percentage of children are star children, and then they, and Princess Kay, will return to space, and to their home on Jupiter.
Of course, the Fair isn’t just a place for food, television news reporters, and ’70s art rock references — politics remain popular there. Usually we wouldn’t include a booth dedicated to informing people about religion on this list, but, times being what they are, having a booth dedicated to explaining Islam is a political act. FOX9 describes one passer-by who ripped up a pamphlet from the booth, saying, “I think it’s a religion of hate and killing Americans“; one imagines we have discovered who writes the comments on Star Tribune web stories. Generally, though, according to FOX9, responses have been “mostly neutral or positive.”
Politicians also make their way to the Fair for their annual round of kissing babies and then shaking them, or whatever they do. According to Pat Kessler of WCCO, the reception has been a bit chilly. One confronted Mark Dayton saying, “Tax ’em to death! Yeah, there goes your job,” while another explained his opposition to gay marriage to Tom Horner, saying, “And all of a sudden next it will be sisters and brothers and animals,” which is also a summary of the Fair itself. Tom Horner’s campaigning produced this notable weird headline from City Pages: “Tom Horner ‘pushing solutions’ in State Fair toilets.” The author, Hart Van Denberg, is talking about a series of campaign signs Horner is puting in State Fair bathrooms, one of which reads, “Too far right. Too far left.” Some, we expect, will interpret that as instructions for how to use the trough-like urinals at men’s rooms.
Outside the Fair, but still in the world of politics, we have a case of battling Jims. Rep. Michele Bachmann took to the airwaves with an attack ad against her opponent Tarryl Clark that consists of a fictional “Jim the Voter Guy,” who actually has little to say about Clark except that she apparently loves taxing and spending the way State Fair attendees love DNA booths. Clark has hit back with her own ad, and her own Jims, who, as Paul Schmelzer of Minnesota Independent points out, are actual voters from Bachmann’s district. All three Jims discuss Clark’s economic policies and contrast them to Bachmann’s. “Unlike Michele Bachmann, [Clark] actually spends time in the 6th district,” the Jims says. We at the Glean fear an uncontainable arms race of Jims, with each successive ad being populated by more and more men named James, until they reach critical mass and detonate. Perhaps this why the star children are preparing to leave the earth.
In arts: If you’re not headed to the Fair this weekend, there are plenty of arts to see, as Marianne Combs of Minnesota Public Radio points out. The most interesting of these sounds to be the “Urban Caravan,” in which you ride a bicycle equipped with a turntable, so that your riding creates a soundtrack, and you then watch movies projected on the side of buildings.
In sports: According to the AP, high school football at Elk River has been suspended as school officials and police investigate allegations of hazing. The officials are being circumspect about the details of the hazing incident, although it is alleged to have involved “brooms and backsides,” which is the sort of thing that it is possible to read all sorts of meaning into, so perhaps releasing the actual details would be a good idea.