Summer Snapshots/#98: State Fair

Another day, another 101 in 1001 checked off! Across the rest of the country, the word association for phrases like "on a stick," "deep-fried," "butter princess," and "mini donut beer" conjure confused looks and the occasional "WTF." Here in my beloved land of 10,000 lakes, they mean only one thing: it's State Fair Time. 

The Great Minnesota Get-Together runs for around 2 weeks at the end of every August, and this year, my family attended on the most crowded day of all time...or at least since they've been keeping attendance records. Saturday dawned warm-but-not-hot, overcast-but-not-rainy, and we packed up and headed to the Fairgrounds around 10am. By 4pm, 252,000+ people had embraced the same plan, and we were completely overwhelmed and ready to be done. But in those six hours...oh man, get ready for totally epic exploits. We ate food. We (well, some of us) rode rides. We drank beer. We people-watched with the best'of'em. In short, we completely dominated the fair. 

Imagine, if you will, a morning that starts off with deep-fried cookie dough on a stick for breakfast. Then pair that cookie dough with a cinnamon bun the size of your head, dripping in sweet lemony icing, and you have our first food consumption of our State Fair morning. (Yes, I took pictures of almost everything we ate. No, no apologies.)

Being totally honest, getting to the fair a bit earlier in the day probably saved/made the whole experience for me. It wasn't as hot as later, and there was still room to move without getting someone else's...Pronto Pup...all up in your face, if you know what I mean. We headed in the general direction of the Mighty Midway, with a pit stop along the way to pick up some Comet Corn from the Blue Moon Drive-In. It was...interesting. 

Caramel corn dusted in pretzel crumbs and cheddar cheese powder, then "fried" in liquid nitrogen? It tasted like Corn Pops but had this weird, mouth-singeingly cold inital shock. Super different. I wouldn't eat them again, but I'd recommend trying them for the sheer weirdness. 

Then we hit the Midway...


Dad's fascinated with this launchy ride that throws you up in the air and bounces you around until gravity has its way with you again. I'd HATE it. 

Dad was super excited for the Midway. Em, on the other hand, made sure to thoroughly verify that she was tall enough to ride all the rides. We scoped out our options...


And after passing on the holy-shit-that-looks-freaky Kamikaze, which flips you upside down at least 8 times, Dad and Em settled on the straight-from-the-70s Bobsled Blitz. Mom and I selfied...

...while Em maintained her cool and Dad's facial expressions made my entire life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. 

We also got snowed by one of those classic rigged Midway games that nobody ever wins. As this particular game entailed throwing pingpong balls into glass bowls, Em insisted she'd dominate because she's so good at beer pong. After two games, neither Em, Dad, nor I had made one. single. ball. But our consolation prizes were super cute (we later gave them to the cutest little toddler ever just to get rid of them).

The Fair opened a whole new area, the West Market, this year. It's home to the Blue Barn, proprietors of The Lowry, Highland Grill, etcetera, and it was heralded as having some of this year's best new food options. We tried the blueberry basil lemonade along with the DELISH blue cheese corn fritters...which were unanimously our entire fam's favorite food of the day. I could've eaten an entire order myself. So good. We also sampled, but I failed to photograph, the "World Famous Salty Tart Coconut Macaroons." They were yummy, but I'm curious to verify their fame on my upcoming travels. 

I'm going to take a break from my regularly-scheduled, chronological recap to analyze two major titans of our fair day: the hot topic of 2014: Mini Donut Beer or S'mores Beer? The former, brewed by Lift Bridge Brewery in Stillwater, MN and served at the Ball Park Café, captured my heart instantly with its cinnamon-sugar rim and sweet, not bitter, caramely flavor. The latter, served by Giggles' Campfire Grill, satisfied my sweet tooth with a chocolate fudge and graham cracker crust rim, and a floating, beer-soaked jumbo marshmallow. The win totally goes to the Mini Donut. It was to-die-for. 

While we enjoyed our second Mini Donut Beer of the day, the daily fair parade came by and we were treated to a firsthand glimpse of Princess Kay of the Milky Way! For non-Minnesotans, Princess Kay is the winner of the annual Fair Pageant for girls who grew up on Minnesota dairy farms. She's one of the fair's official ambassadors, but the truly big deal is that she gets her head carved in like...100 pounds of butter or something insane like that. See below: 

I can totally see the likeness. Can't you? We munched on Pronto Pups before the parade...did you know Pronto Pups are the original corn-battered hot dog on a stick, and originated IN Minnesota? Magic, folks...and after, we split a chocolate-covered Salted Nut Roll (another family favorite, I'd call this a don't-miss for 2015). 

At this point, though, things were getting uncomfortably, claustrophobically crowded. Pronto Pups all up in my face, crabby people elbowing us, and so. many. weirdos. We hot-footed it to Machinery Hill, where Dad admired cars and snowmobiles while we admired the cute guys admiring machinery, and ran into some family friends! After a long chat with them, we decided to leave, but not without one last stop. 

It's a tradition. They're so trashy and so to-die-for that I didn't even stop to take a picture before we inhaled them. And with that, our State Fair 2014 experience came to an end. We walked 12,000 steps per Em's iPhone pedometer, and we ingested 12,000 calories...before noon. It was, all in all, an epic success. Here's to the Great Minnesota Get Together!