Jennifer Brooks
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The 2022 Minnesota State Fair is here to remind us how much we've missed us.

After years of death and loss, uprising and lockdowns, after political rhetoric turned half the state against the other half, Minnesotans returned to the fairgrounds to share their mutual enjoyment of very large vegetables and very small 4-H bunnies.

You almost hesitate to say it — saying it feels like an invitation for something to explode or surge or flood or get compared to Nazi Germany — but it's not bad.

Not bad at all.

Minnesota's highest praise goes to the opening days of fair season, when the weather was pleasant, the crowds were friendly and there were no less than 78 new fair foods to sample.

On day one, a championship ribbon went to James Magnuson of New London, who somehow grew a pumpkin that weighed in at 1,676.5 pounds. A pumpkin that weighs more than a manatee, and it's ours to enjoy from now until Sept. 5 when the fair ends and pumpkin spice season begins.

The first day of the fair drew 121,478 people — twice as many as opening day last year. Day two, which dawned even sunnier and more pleasant than opening day, had cars lined up for a mile in every direction by midmorning.

They came to marvel at the crop art and at the Minnesotans who nudged thousands of seeds into place with toothpicks and glue just for the fun of it.

They came to see the livestock in the barns — the enormous draft horses, the poultry with improbable plumage, the 4-H kids catching a nap on their cots between the sheep stalls after working so hard to get here.

There was no fair in 2020 and not many people ventured back in 2021. There was some question whether this year would be any better. We're still in a pandemic, the fair has struggled to find workers and volunteers, and inflation inflated everything from the price of tickets at the gate to that $20 lobster sandwich everyone is talking about.

But despite everything pushing us apart, the fair will always be here to bring us together for what truly matters: all those newborn lambs in the Miracle of Birth barn.

Be safe, be smart and take public transit if you can. Then enjoy.

Enjoy watching the dairy princess and her court take shape from 90-pound butter blocks being carved in the rotating display case in the Dairy Building.

There's live music to enjoy and hand-stitched quilts and jars of blue ribbon jam. Lovingly preserved tractors chugging away on Machinery Hill. A giant cardboard moose the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency built just because the fair calls for recycling exhibits on a grand scale.

There are pork schnitzel sandwiches at the Farmers Union, Mov + Nqaij from the Union Hmong Kitchen and blueberry flapjacks in the Hamline Church Dining Hall (happy 125th birthday, Hamline Church Dining Hall!) that pair nicely with the blueberry flapjack lip balm at the Star Tribune booth. 'Tis the season for deep-fried cheese curds and cookie buckets and Pronto Pups and mini donuts; for pierogies and tirokroketes and birthday cake paleta. All the flavors of Minnesota.

The Great Minnesota Get-Together just got great again.