Last year’s State Fair was a banner year — or Blue Ribbon year — for political fans. With the presidential election coming to a head, you couldn’t go 20 feet without seeing some T-shirt or hat or placard for McCain or Obama.
Many days you’d find Al Franken and Norm Coleman roaming around or glad-handing in their booths. Who’d have guessed then that the race wouldn’t be decided for 10 months?
And during the closing days of the fair we saw early arriving Republican National Convention delegates popping in to see the big boars. (A preview of when they’d see the big bores?)
This election off-year will be reflected in the political activity at the fair. (It must be true: I saw it on TV.)
The two big parties will have their usual big presences — the Republicans next to Ye Old Mill and WCCO-AM on Carnes Avenue, and the DFL at the corner of Dan Patch and Cooper. My impression after hanging around them for years: The Republicans like to use megaphones to get people in off the busy street, maybe because they’re competing with Sid Hartman and Susie Jones for people’s attention. The DFL booth is more of a quiet, drop-in center.
The Independence Party of Minnesota, the Green Party of Minnesota and the Constitution Party have also ponied up the $750 for a political booth.
Al Franken won’t have a campaign booth this year, but like his fellow U.S. senator, Amy Klobuchar, he’ll have a sitting senator spot.
Candidates and chickens
And even though there are more candidates for the 2010 governor’s race than there are breeds of chicken in the Fowl Building, only one — Republican Marty Seifert — will have his own booth. It’ll be near the Giant Slide.
Fair officials said Chris Wright, who’s registered to run and was once associated with the Grassroots Party (which supported marijuana legalization), had applied early on for a fair booth, but has apparently decided against it.
Other gubernatorial candidates will likely be found in their respective party booths, or wandering around aimlessly, wearing campaign hats and T-shirts, and hoping to corner those waiting for the kids to get off the Giant Slide.
Both the state Senate and House will have their traditional booths in the Education Building. They’ll conduct unscientific polls, which won’t have much bearing on legislation, but at least give decision-makers a peek into what fair-goers are thinking about the big issues of the day.
And Politics in Minnesota reports that at least 40 state representatives have signed on to appear in the House booth to answer questions. You can be they’ll be prepped with answers on health care insurance, the budget, roads, taxes, cuts in programs for the poor. Just don’t ask them for directions to the bathroom or the Epiphany Diner.
The Taxpayers League of Minnesota won’t miss the opportunity to interact with the nearly 1.7 million people attending the fair. First, they’re placing billboards near the fairgrounds accusing legislators of trying to raise taxes. They’ll also have a booth under the grandstand, with a tax quiz and legislative scorecard.
And there’s a new Conservation Minnesota Voter Center booth full of information on the constitutional-amendment funding and other conservation issues.
Also new this year, on a somewhat political bent, is a Peace Sign booth, run by Pam Mondale and Kate Hartfiel. You’ll recognize their Peace Pavilion — on Underwood, a bit north of Dan Patch — because it’s the tent with the painted ’67 VW bus sticking up. The pig atop the bus, they say, is a State Fair reference, not Richard Nixon.
They’re selling jewelry, art and notions with the peace-sign theme, all things, they say, “from baby clothes to watches — cowboy hats to ceramics — Christmas décor to wallets — jewelry to door mats.”
Pam Mondale is the daughter-in-law of former Vice President Walter Mondale. She and Hartfiel are long-time friends, and plan to continue their peace sign business after the fair with a website and visits to art fairs.