Memory Machine: Minnesota State Fair

Miiiiiinnesota State Faair! Anyone driving around the Twin Cities and extending metro has likely heard the familiar radio jingle that advertises the Great Minnesota Get-Together, coming August 23 through September 3, 2012. Love it or hate it (the tune, and I suppose, the fair itself), it has quite the effect on most Minnesotans, and conjures up all sorts of memories and emotions.

Minnesota State FairFor some it’s the anticipation of people-watching and pronto pups (Or corn dogs? Debate!). It’s excitement for outdoor concerts and carnival games, or admiring the tractors and animals, plus local art and handiwork.

I happen to land in the fiercely loyal pack who value all of the above, and more. (“Pack” being the perfect word, considering the throngs of family members and friends we gather every year to attend together, and the slow, steady way the hive travels—breaking away only to return with food.) For me, it really is the memories that bring me back…

Courtesy MN State Fair

It’s cramming 20+ people into the Education Building photo booth to prove the calendar ladies wrong—we can fit!

It’s the year my cousin got stranded, but sat calmly eating her favorite popcorn until the group realized she was missing and sprinted back.

It’s the 30 and three-year-olds connecting hands while riding down the Giant Slide on potato sacks.

It’s my uncle stopping to play one of the pianos in The Grandstand (Star Wars theme song, anyone?)—though this year we’ll have to track down the new display of Pianos on Parade. Located in Family Fair at Baldwin Park.

It’s counting how many food items we’ve consumed, and the detective work to find the new ones. (This year, Red Velvet Funnel Cakes, for sure!)

And every year moving forward, we can add visiting The Bench to our itinerary. Recognition benches, scattered around the grounds, are a touching addition courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and its efforts to add value (seating) while involving the community (personalization, donations). So this year we will make our inaugural stop at The Fitzgerald bench honoring and picturing my grandparents.

The thing is, we don’t know exactly where it will be…The first year you can request a general area (we originally thought of the beer garden, due to my grandma’s particular love of the fair and a cold one, but ended up going with where we all meet to start the day, at mass), but after that, the bench will potentially move around.

So the annual hunt is on! Which I will forever cherish.

The online box office closed today, but discounts ($9) at the State Fair Box Office and Cub customer service centers run until August 22. Or just pay $10-$12 at the gate (children under five are free). Minnesota State Fair: 1265 North Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul | 651-288-4400,