Not everybody loves the State Fair. I appreciate that. I don’t understand it, but I can agree to disagree.
But those of a political bent who dislike the crowds, or the walking, or the traffic or the greasy food at the fair should know about how candidates for office are interacting with fairgoers.
So as a public service, here’s a look at booths and buttons — and lonely Independence Party candidates — at the Fair:
The major parties have permanent buildings at the fair: the Republicans next to Ye Old Mill and WCCO-AM on Carnes Avenue, and the DFL at the corner of Dan Patch and Cooper.
The Republicans offer a wide assortment of John McCain buttons for 50 cents each. The most popular, workers said, is the military hero button, with Sen. McCain as a young man in uniform. If you fill out a survey, you get a free Norm Coleman button.
The State Fair won’t allow any stickers or lawn signs to be given out or sold — to avoid litter — but you can sign up to have the Republicans deliver a lawn sign, for free.
At the DFL booth, buttons are $2. And they’re out of Obama buttons. (Early in the Fair, volunteers sold larger buttons for $3; it’s unclear if they’ve run out of the larger buttons or if they learned that the Republicans were undercutting their prices.)
Obama, Franken and Minnesota DFL T-shirts are sold in the booth for $20 to $25. Want a lawn sign? They direct folks to the local DFL offices, where the signs go for $8. But one volunteer said she got one for only $3 at the Raymond Avenue office in St. Paul the other day, but she wasn’t sure if that was a State Fair special or a new lower price.
The Independence Party has a smaller presence, next to the Cheese Curd stand on Dan Patch. There’s a big buffalo atop the booth, and I’m only repeating a comment — not voicing an editorial opinion — when I report that someone wondered if the party features a buffalo logo because both are near extinction.
The volunteer in the booth Friday couldn’t find buttons or T-shirts or anything else for sale but said I could leave my name and number.
Presidential candidates Barack Obama — on Cooper Street, a block or so north of the DFL building — and John McCain — on Nelson Street, near the DNR building — each have booths that look more like S’mores stands than presidential palaces.
At Obama’s booth, two young volunteers were actually making buttons on site, (Definitely made in the USA, they joked) and handing them out for free. They also sold Obama T-shirts for $20.
McCain’s folks will talk to you about their candidate, and his new Alaska addition, and you can sign up for a drawing to win one of McCain’s books.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has an official Senate stand across from the Dairy Building on Judson Avenue. (She doesn’t sell buttons or T-shirts or hand out knick-knacks, because it’s not a campaign booth. Her campaign work at the Fair is done at the DFL booth.)
Sen. Norm Coleman has a campaign booth across from the Food Building on Underwood Street. There, posters are free, as are plastic wrist bands that say Norm ’08. There were some toy foam hockey sticks and pucks, free for kids. Give your name and address and you get a free Coleman button.
Senate challenger Al Franken’s booth is further south on Underwood, near Judson. Franken buttons are sold for $2, T-shirts for $20. For free, you get an Al Franken baseball card or a Frannie Franken recipe card for apple pie.
Senate challenger Priscilla Lord Faris, who’s running in the primary against Franken, has a booth on Cooper Street.
Dean Barkley, Independence Party candidate for Senate, has a booth on Underwood, across from the Kidway. He said he’s been there every day, and a sign on his booth offers “Free Tattoos.” In smaller print, it says: “Temporary.”
Barkley said he doesn’t try to sell buttons or T-shirts at the fair because of rules that require a percentage of sales to go to the Fair and he doesn’t want to deal with making change. “But I do hand out donation envelopes that can be mailed in,” he said.
Another Independence Senate candidate, Jack Uldrich, has a booth on Cooper Street, not far from Obama’s. On the first day of the Fair, I saw Uldrich standing there, alone, and lined up a photograph to show the loneliest man at the fair. Just then, someone walked up to talk with him. Turned out to be Star Tribune reporter Kevin Duchschere, there to interview Uldrich for a story.