If you are even remotely considering a visit to the Minnesota State Fair, there are three things you need to know about this 320-acre cornucopia of crop art, farm animals, and questionable foods:
1. it’s smelly,
2. it’s loud, and
3. it’s crowded.
In other words, it’s basically an introvert’s nightmare. Want to know how I cope? Here’s my plan of attack, in three easy steps.
Step 1 • Plan ahead
Before you go, study the new food selections for that year. (Pork. BE INSPIRED.)
This year featured not one but TWO Spam® dishes — including Spam “sushi.” We also had some multicultural options, like the extremely authentic and very traditional Italian Taco.
The square that most caught my eye was the last one, at the bottom of the right-hand column: “New Vendors. New Vendors. Two brand-new vendors located at locations throughout the fairgrounds.” Could you please be less specific, and more redundant? Thank you.
Anyway. After perusing these dubious delicacies, note their locations on the map — so you can actively avoid them.
Pro tip: Don’t accept food from strangers, especially if they have already taken a bite.
Step 2 • Go early, and leave early
There’s no way around it: The Minnesota State Fair is going to be crowded. (In 2016 it broke its attendance record with 1,943,719 visitors over 10 days.)
But over the years I’ve noticed that some elements of the crowd are more obnoxious — like, say, screaming children and drunks — so I’ve developed strategies to minimize exposure.
Careful observation reveals that most of the families with small children arrive at the Fair after about 10 a.m. (My working theory is that this is because it’s physically impossible to dress a small child before he or she wants to be dressed.)
At least this youngster didn’t need any coaxing.
These small children are adorable when they first arrive, of course, because there’s so much interesting stuff to see and eat (refer to Exhibit A — New Foods for 2016). Why, just look at these two tots dueling with their popsicles!
The novelty wears off quickly, though, and by 2 p.m. these once-happy children are emitting howls of displeasure that could deafen a coyote. Not coincidentally, this is also when many of the adults show the first signs of inebriation.
I am not implying that this gentleman was inebriated. Though he did seem really happy to be holding a beer at 10 a.m.
You can avoid all of this by arriving at the Fair at 7 a.m. and then cheerfully leaving at noon, before the smiles turn to snarls. Sure, you may miss a couple of entertaining arrests — but you can always catch the highlight reel on the evening news.
Step 3 • Take shelter
If in spite of following Steps 1 and 2 you’re still overwhelmed, head for the relative safety of a barn. (Pro tip: Not recommended for those with open-toed shoes or hay fever.)
There are several kinds of barns, each devoted to a different species: goats, sheep, cows, horses, chickens, and even rabbits.
And inside these barns you’ll find a haven for introverts, many of whom — like you — will also be hiding behind cameras.
If you’re lucky you’ll get to watch a farrier demonstration.
This horse seemed worried that he would be next.
And if you’re feeling social you can chat with the cowgirls and cowboys. You’ll be amazed by how self-possessed they all seem, and how much they know about their animals.
Though no one will mind if you’d rather kick back and just watch the proceedings instead.
You might also catch a horse show — or a heifer-judging, if that’s more your thing.
And it’s always good to check out the latest in equestrian fashion.
But by now it’s likely close to noon, which means you should probably start looking for an exit.
I know, I know … you haven’t even been on the Skyride yet or tried the honey ice cream or accidentally bought a hot tub. It’s okay. The Minnesota State Fair will be back next year — and so will you, my quiet friend, if you leave while you’re still enjoying yourself.
See you next year?
Text and photos © Heather Munro.