Day Fifteen – Your Voice Will Find You:
* Today’s Prompt: You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it.
* Today’s Twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice.
The event that is near and dear to my heart and which would create quite an emotional reaction from me if it were forever cancelled would be the Minnesota State Fair.
The Minnesota State Fair, which is also known to us Minnesotans as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” runs for twelve days from late August into early September, ending on Labor Day. The state fairgrounds are located in the neighborhood of Falcon Heights, which is halfway between our state’s capital city of St. Paul (the city which I grew up in) and its largest city, Minneapolis. The Minnesota State Fair enjoys the reputation of being the largest state fair in the United States by average daily attendance.
I have been attending the Minnesota State Fair since my childhood and I have many fond memories associated with doing so. One such memory includes the time that my only brother (now deceased) and I rode the roller coaster together. I recall how terrified I was. I thought for certain that I was going to fly out of the roller coaster car and land on the ground to meet an early death. I began to sob, and so my brother put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Don’t worry, Cindy. It’s okay. I won’t let anything happen to you. Just close your eyes and hang on. Pretty soon it will be all over and when we’re done, I’ll buy you some cotton candy, okay?” He made me feel so safe and so loved.
During my teenage years, my friends and I would take the city bus every morning and arrive at the fair as soon as it opened. We didn’t have much money, but all we needed was just enough to cover the admission fee and the cost of soft drinks and lunch and dinner. Then we’d spend the day sitting in the audience at the band shell watching the free entertainment which was provided. And we had our favorites such as Billy ThunderKloud and the Chieftones and the Jack D’Johns. Then every evening at 7 p.m. the talent show was held and we’d stay to watch it, pretending that we were the judges, trying to figure out who were the best acts and who would be chosen to go on to the next round. We did this for every day of the fair, come rain or come shine, for three or four years in a row, until eventually we outgrew it.
After I was married, I didn’t attend the state fair for quite a number of years. This was due to the fact that my husband Mike has severe seasonal allergies and it is around this time of the year that he is most affected by them. There was one year, however, that he agreed to take me to the fair just to please me, but he suffered the entire time that we were there, so I never asked him to go with me again because it just didn’t seem fair to put him through such misery just so I could have a good time.
But then our children came along and I began taking them to the Minnesota State Fair and this is when many more wonderful memories were made. My two daughters and I have been to the fair together on numerous occasions, and when we go together, we have the best time ever.
Usually we park our car at Northtown Mall near my house and board a bus which shuttles passengers directly to the fairgrounds. This is the best way to go to the fair because then you don’t have to try to find a place to park your car near the fair grounds, and believe me, usually you wind up parking a mile or two away!
After arriving, we head straight to the Dairy Building where it’s chocolate shakes for everyone, and here they make the best chocolate shakes you’ve ever tasted – cold, smooth, creamy, and so rich and full of chocolate goodness! While we drink our shakes, we sit on a bench on the street curb and watch while animal owners walk with their goats and lambs and horses and other various animals up and down the avenue. I know this might sound boring, but it’s really quite a lot of fun. We’ve seen some very interesting things happen. As a matter of fact, we’ve seen some downright hysterical things happen. But then again, whenever we’re together, we always have a good time.
Sometimes we’ll take a leisurely stroll over to the Miracle of Birth Center. This building describes exactly what it is. It’s where you can watch all kinds of animals such as pigs, sheep, goats, horses, etc. – give birth at any given time. You just have to time it right. I’ll never forget the first time that we entered this building and saw a sheep give birth to her lamb. My youngest daughter Stephanie and I witnessed the entire birth, from start to finish, and had the perfect view because we were right up front. But my oldest daughter Sarah couldn’t bear to watch it. She actually had to turn away. You never saw anyone exit a building so fast! And my girls were not little girls then – I believe they were probably 12 and 14 years of age then.
We always head over to the Arts and Crafts Building. Now this is my favorite building to walk through. I just love to see the beautiful handicrafts that people like me have made with their very own hands, probably because I love to do arts and crafts myself. I especially enjoy looking at the quilts because again, this is a hobby of mine. And I enjoy noticing which projects received the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Grand Prizes. It usually takes us over an hour to get through this building because it’s not a building that you can rush through. But then again, we never rush through this day. We take our time. Everything is done at a leisurely pace because we want to enjoy the day and each other’s company. As a matter of fact, I always tell my girls before we leave to remember that we have to enjoy our day together and that we’re not going to rush anything. And they always chime together: “Yes, Mom. We know.”
We usually stop at the band shell at some point during the day to sit and watch the various acts for a while and then we always come back later in the evening to watch the entire talent show. And when we do, it always brings a smile to my face as I remember those days of being there during my teenage years. It is a nostalgic experience for me.
And what would a trip to the fair being without going to the Midway at some time throughout the day? According to my girls, it just wouldn’t be the same. And so we always go on at least a few rides. There is one ride that we always go on without fail, and that is the Skyride, which is located right before you get to the Midway. The Skyride is a cable car system that “glides” people above the treetops and across the fairgrounds. It’s a great way to see the Minnesota State Fair. Every time before we go to the fair together, I promise my girls that I will go on the Skyride with them, but then when it’s time to get on, I’m scared out of my wits because guess what? I’m afraid of heights! But I take a deep breath, gather up my courage, and get into the cable car anyway. Yep, that’s right. I sit in between my girls and I hold on to each of their hands and I squeeze their hands – hard! And while we’re on that Skyride, I think they have the time of their lives! The little buggers! Oh, well. I guess it’s good for kids to know that their parents get scared sometimes, too, right?
Now while we’re having all this fun, guess what else we’re doing? You guessed it. Eating. Our favorite foods to eat at the fair are: chocolate shakes, cheeseburgers, roasted ears of corn, pronto pups, cheese curds, cotton candy, french fries, deep-fried candy bars, caramel apples, mini-donuts, fried chicken, baked potatoes, chocolate chip cookies, and soft pretzels. Now remember – we do a lot of walking, which hopefully helps us to walk off all those calories!
We always end our day by going to the rodeo in the evening. My girls and I love to go the rodeo. But in order to go, we first make a stop at the bazaar and buy cowboy hats because you simply cannot attend the rodeo without wearing a cowboy hat, right? Our favorite event to watch at the rodeo is bull riding. My husband really gets a kick out of the fact that I enjoy the rodeo. He simply had a hard time believing that someone like me would ever enjoy an event like the rodeo, but I guess I surprised him! Yes, I’m just full of surprises.
By the time the rodeo is finished, dark has fallen on the fairgrounds, and we hike up to the grandstand, where the performance for that evening is drawing to a close. As we get nearer to the grandstand, we can always hear that night’s band winding down. We find a spot on the street and settle down to wait for the performance to end. As soon as it does, we know what comes next, and we’re never disappointed. Soon the fireworks display begins high above the grandstand and we watch together, while we “ooh” and “ah,” happy in the moment, but also sad because we know that our day is slowly drawing to an end.
When the last of the fireworks has vanished from the skies, we walk at our slowest pace to where our bus is waiting to take us back to where our day began, and usually this is a quiet walk. It’s as though we’re all thinking about what transpired during the day. It’s as though we’re all trying to sear it into our memories forever.
We may not remember everything we did, every word we spoke, or everything we laughed about, but we will always remember the way that we felt when we were together at “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” – the Minnesota State Fair.