It’s that time of the year when we ask, with expressions of serious concern, whether people who don’t go to the State Fair are true Minnesotans.
No, I’m not suggesting they should be exiled! That would be ridiculous.
But maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Now you can just show up, present your ID and vote, right? But those cards can be faked. Knowledge is a different matter.
Would it be too much to ask a question or two?
“So, how much is a corn dog this year?”
“What? I don’t know, 10 bucks?”
(Clerk slides the ID back across the table.)
Of course, eventually they will be $10, so perhaps we need two questions. The corn dog question and something about the Star Tribune’s Complimentary Lip Balm flavor. This year it’s Roofing Tar. (Just kidding. That was last year.)
By now some of you are outraged, and I can anticipate your argument: Why should people from Wisconsin who live right across the river and go to the fair be allowed to vote in Minnesota just because they have chapped lips?
Good point. I also understand why some people don’t like the fair. Let’s go over the reasons:
• “It’s nothing but looking at prizewinning corn while eating a turkey leg.” Not so. You can also look at prizewinning turkeys while eating corn.
• “It’s hot and crowded. It is a seething slow-motion mob of sweat-soaked people bleeding grease through every pore while they baste in the sun.” I’m sorry, is this an objection? I just call that “Labor Day.”
• “It’s overpriced.” Oh, there’s lots of free stuff. You can get a yardstick and spend the day measuring things. Do you know the width of the grandstand? You should; it’s next year’s voting question.
Also, you can get a free bag at one place and another bag elsewhere and put one bag in the other bag. There’s no charge to complain about politics seeping into the crop art exhibit, or to climb to the top of the DNR fire tower — and when you get to the top, you can breathe into the free bags until your heart rate goes back to normal.
• “I don’t like corn dogs, cookies, minidonuts, or beer.” Me, neither! Not all at once, anyway. There was a place that put them all in a blender but it’s not there anymore. I can still see the sign: “Fair Fave Slurry for Folks in a Hurry!”
You can find amazing food at the fair that’s not fried or stick-based, and I don’t know why people eat corn dogs when there are so many options available. I say this to myself every year while waiting in line for a corn dog.
• “I don’t go on rides.” Neither do I. Everyone on the rides is always screaming. I take that as a sign. If you walked past a restaurant and everyone was screaming, you would find another place to eat.
But it’s fun to watch the rides, and at twilight, when the lights pop on and the machines heave up and down, engines chuffing like caged beasts, the screams of joy rising and falling, it’s a timeless moment that signals the graceful decrescendo to a Minnesota summer. As long as there’s another night of the fair, there’s another night of summer.
• “I’m a fictional archetype you created just to argue with.” True! In which case, bad news: You’re coming with me to the fair. And you’ll like it.
firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks