James Lileks
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There will be less State Fair this year, and it will cost more. How very 2022! Admission will bump up a buck to 17 smackers, and the fair will open an hour later and shut down an hour earlier. Unless there are cargo ships full of mini-donuts idling off the coast of California, I don't think they can blame "the supply chain" for this one.

I saw the news on my phone while I was standing outside the Star Tribune World HQ on a rote bleak January afternoon. The sidewalk was strewn with salt that glistened in the slanting afternoon light. The cars that passed were streaked with the ghosts of slush and snow and grit and dirt, and the air had the vacant indifference of a midwinter day — no cruelty, no comfort.

And so I cared not for higher prices or shorter hours. What hit me were two words in the headline, something I had not yet considered this year.

The. Fair.

Never have two words had such promise and delight, except perhaps for "unlimited breadsticks." The fair. Of course! I'd forgotten all about it. We put the fair away in a mental lockbox when the snow comes, as if we would weaken if we thought about it.

Why, we'd even deny its existence. Consider someone saying, "Yea, it seems barren and cold now, but there will come a day when people walk around outside in shorts and eat processed meats on pointy skewers and point at boars and scream in the sky with joy."

Our response: "Yeah, right. And there's brightly colored booths that float in sky and endless French fries for all and a magical room where seeds are turned into art! Go peddle your wares on the other side of the street, bud."

Honestly, this is the point where the fair could announce anything and get away with it.

"This year admission prices will be raised to $65 per person, and all entrants to the fairgrounds will subjected to a full-cavity body search. The fair will open at noon and close at 2 p.m., with all fairgoers cleared from the grounds by the National Guard, using cudgels and Tasers.

"Crop art will consist of some bags of microwave popcorn stapled to the wall. Corn dogs will be served raw and stickless, so bring your own Sterno and skewers. The livestock barns will be replaced by a taxidermy exhibit, with stuffed cows and pigs pulled around on dollies; Princess Kay will be rendered in margarine. The 4-H building will feature only 3 H's."

And what would we think?

Ohhhh, the fair!

Summer. Green summer. Hot, strong summer on the cusp of its unmaking, still solid and seemingly supreme, loud and crowded. Our place, our time, our fair. Oh, sure, it's pricier and shorter, but c'mon: beer-infused llama-thyroid gyros on a stick while you look at Fine Art while wearing a paper hat with pig ears. It's worth it.

The very thought of the fair gave me hope and banished the blues of January. But I did some quick calculations: We are only 140 days past the end of the last fair. The next doesn't start for 214 days. Forget all your other markers of winter's retreat — Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's, tax day. March 1 is when we begin to draw nigh to the fair again, and that is the true Minnesota Solstice.

Unless the supply chain screws up February, and there are only 24 days in the month.