“The Great Minnesota Get-Together”

That is the slogan of the Minnesota State Fair, which is currently taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Fortunately, I am in Beijing.

The last time I went to the Fair (1995 perhaps), I had a panic attack. I had just returned from China and the sight of so many over-sized women in under-sized garments was just too much to handle. I abandoned my sister in the doo-dad market underneath the Grandstands and fled for my life.

My friend Kent, who blogs over at The Talking Monkey has put up a brilliant missive on the Minnesota State Fair. He is more of a True Minnesotan than I am, so has fonder (and funnier) sentiments, which he (fortunately for us) has decided to share with the world in a post titled “Ten Life Lessons Learned at the Minnesota State Fair.”  Here’s an excerpt from his introduction:

Still, there is one Minnesota tradition that shares much with China: The Minnesota State Fair. Like China, Minnesota’s agricultural history has shaped much of our personality and practices, and the Minnesota State Fair is our harvest celebration. Think of it as the Mid-Autumn Festival for the beige-food crowd, or spending a Saturday on the Nanjing Lu walking street but with more livestock and people in seed caps.


For foodies interested in things like flavor, Minnesota epicurean traditions can leave one feeling a bit empty – our most famous native cuisine, called a “Hot Dish”, describes only the temperature of the container and says nothing about the food.  And for good reason – how much can anyone really do with a can of cream of mushroom soup, ground beef, a bag of tater tots and an oven set to 350 degrees?


However, come State Fair time, Minnesotans go wild with their food choices, turning into participants in some strange TV programming mash-up of Cooking with Julia Childs and Fear Factor. With reckless abandon we eat Tom Thumb Mini-Donuts (which we feel OK eating by the bucket-full because they are, well, mini and are therefor less fattening, per donut); Pronto Pups (which we are basically sure contain no actual pup parts); Sno Cones (a paper cup filled with chipped ice drenched in colored sugar water for which the consumer is charged $3, thus representing a 99.7% gross margin to the seller); and Foot Long Hot Dogs (where, true story, a number of years ago some snotty-nosed kid from Edina just out law school took a ruler to and forced the seller to rename them “ALMOST A Foot Long Hot Dogs”).


But most importantly, the Minnesota State Fair can provide opportunities for flights of existential fantasy resulting in revelations of the same sort that Confucian and Daoist masters experienced when observing life in China’s countryside. In short, spending time at the State Fair can show one The Way. So in humble homage to the Analects, I here present 10 Life Lessons Learned at the Minnesota State Fair:

If you really want to read his list (and I know you do), now is the time to click on over to his site.

Thanks, Kent, for reminding me why I make sure to be in Beijing in August every year.