Commentary: Five tours of the state fair and here’s his story

By Barry Buckley

Thank you, St. Anthony Park. My problem is simple. I can walk to the fair. I don’t have to get on the Lorenz bus with a bum air conditioner. This year I completed five visits to the Minnesota State Fair and can show receipts for $300 in cheese curds. There must be a Fairaholics support group, but until then I’ll be crossing through the fancy $30 million dollar entrance again and again next year.

It started with my wife and I attending the Fine Arts preview the Tuesday before opening day. Entering the gate, police were checking trunks of vehicles. I think they were checking for chicken smugglers because chickens weren’t invited this year. Some sort of Chicken Pox. We went to the show with another couple, friends of my wife who pretend to like me. I hung out at the free wine and veggie dip bar tilting my head sideways at a couple of pieces that looked upside down.

Do this, and people think you have an eye for art. A few wines later I’m scared we bought a painting. I wouldn’t know what. I hope it’s dogs playing poker.

Later, and missing my wallet, we moved onto a tour of the Bailey House. The oldest building on the fairgrounds, it houses fair history with renderings of beautiful buildings that have been knocked down and replaced with Pronto Pups. My wife’s friends then snuck an unattended ride down the big yellow slide on dinner napkins. I know this. I saw it. On Snapchat.

Day One, the farm animals. You can tour barns galore and spend an entire day just on pigs. I know nothing about pig judging, but I like watching the kids steer them, using sticks or car antennas. Odd that some of these oinkers end up on sticks and dipped in chocolate.

The trick to navigating the fair crowd is timing. It depends on the tide, moon, air temperature and wind speed. The heavier days, when I’m elbow to elbow with a gazillion visitors, I opt for the scooter and borrow a compression boot from a friend. I hit the scooter rental depot, pass a driver’s test wearing the cataract shield, and I pick out a candy apple red ride with little chrome wheels. A scooter and an air horn will part a city of rhinestone jeans like Moses and the Red Sea.

This fair thinks of everything by providing cool water scooter misters. They’re crowded with smart-nosed kids washing cotton candy or pickle juice off their faces, so I bark out a 30-mph command: “Move outa my way, Dilbert. I got barn dust on my ride!”

With that aggressive driving, am I hungry? You betcha, Minnesota. That’s why I carry a grill spatula and the orange Homer bucket. Full charge and burning rubber, I can scrape a zillion Sweet Martha patties off the pavement in six minutes.

Sorry Mr. Z., love your show, but the best fair food is not the Gizmo. My vote is the Cluck and Moo served at the Blue Barn. It’s Thanksgiving Dinner in a bowl just like my Nana’s Thanksgiving minus deflated football.

Retirement advice at the fair? The man bench in the seed house. I can mow or split wood all day, but five minutes in a room with 300 gladiolus stems or yet another sunflower seed Elvis portrait, Uff da! I’m toast. On the man bench I found a guy from Fridley enjoying retirement. We chatted, and I asked him how long he had been at the fair. He told me the volunteers repainted the bench around him over St. Patty’s Day.

I hit the DNR Poaching Wall of Shame and was disappointed that the dentist circus lion shooter wasn’t posted. All dentists aren’t bad. My next-door neighbor is a dentist, and he’s a nice man. I steal electricity from his garage. He and his lovely wife water our window boxes while we’re out of town, and she uses their water. He’s a patient man. He would never shoot a lion. I think he wants to shoot me.

The best way to see the fair is from above. Not from the space eggs painted like cows. They’re more fun floating down the St. Anthony falls. The real ride is the chair lifts where arms and legs are dangling.

Last year I took a ride with my then 9-year-old stepdaughter. As we approached a rooftop she asked, “Barry, why are all those bras and underwear up there?” With a quick, Grinch-like response to Cindy Lou Who, I said, “Sweetheart . . . ummm . . . that’s a result of some horribly, tragic accident and . . . ummmm . . . by the way, our safety bar is missing a cotter pin.”

Barry Buckley still resides in St. Anthony Park, is temporarily banned from Speedy Market and maintains a permanent parking slot at the Little Wine Store.

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