24 August 2012
A Minnesotan not at the Great Get-Together
One of the best feelings was after a fun day trip to the fair. Your feet (if sandaled) were caked in dust, and if you were lucky enough to remember tennis shoes with shorts, at least your legs showed the signs and would need a thorough scrubbing. You may be feeling good after sampling one or two of the many fried, "things on a stick", or you may not be feeling so well if you also topped it off with a bucket of Sweet Martha's Cookies. You may have seen a cow being born in the birthing corral (and will never forget it), you might have sampled fresh honey from a bee's nest. You might have also wandered through the Renaissance tent or the fair ride block and been mesmerized. More than likely, you found yourself caught in the Education building and for the rest of day wondering where you got the plastic bag with tons of college pamphlets and pencils that you carried the whole day and finally threw away at home. You might have ran into old friends, or shared a bench in the shade with a new friend. But either way, the "Great Minnesota Get-Together" always leaves one with fond memories, and I have never been the exception.
The summer after I graduated college, I took my love for the state fair to the next level, crossed over the abyss of normalcy, and became a carnie. A carnie, for all intents and purposes, was a person who lived, worked and breathed fair. Not just the state fair, but all fairs, the state fair being the Everest of the entire summer. They are nice, but creepy enough to never find out just how nice. Carnies also really smelled and looked like fair. Unfortunately, for 12 days, that was me, a foot-long hot dog selling carnie. Since my shift started at 6am and went until the mid-late afternoon, I took my boss/neighbor up on the offer to stay in their spare trailer at the fairgrounds. Yes I did. I walked to the shower each evening, trying to erase the smell of sauteed onions from my pores before I wandered back into the fair to catch some night lights and possibly hear a concert. And because it was my first (and only) summer being a carnie, I didn't know or think to bring my own food for the week and instead spent most of my paycheck eating fair food. yuck. I also threw away every piece of clothing I wore that week, down to my socks and underwear. I will say, however, that for a state fair loving gal like me, I really got to see some "great" sides of the fair I never would have known otherwise. Like where the ice is kept for some vendors, and how to carry one 20-pound bag on each shoulder and impress the cute cookie boys. I also discovered the "safe" routes to take in the early morning, and which truck will whistle and me and which truck will wave. I found my own spot of shade for my few breaks and discovered that while a foot long hot dog may be a good lunch or dinner, you have really got to worry when you eat one for breakfast at 7am. And while the 4H building fascinated me just a few years prior, when you don't have to go in it, you really don't go in it. What a few flips of the calendar teaches me.
And while I thought I'd never be able to think of the state fair in the same fond, favorable light as before my short stint as a carnie, I have yet to return and am only remorseful, not glad. It turns out that not even 12 never-ending days in a trailer of foot longs, onions, and Pepsi products can spoil the true glamour and pride that is the Great Minnesota Get-Together.