Go With a Guide

This is the final day of the 2012 Minnesota State Fair.
Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

I had never really understood why there’s all that hype around The Great Minnesota Get-Together. My family didn’t go to the Iowa State Fair when I was growing up, and the Marshall County Fair was not thrilling. To me, the State Fair looked like a hot, crowded, dusty and smelly place that made me tired and cranky. Turns out the buildings are so old they aren’t even air conditioned. I would always try to resist buying too much fried food. I ended up walking clear out of my way to find things, retracing steps because I didn’t know where things were in relation to each other. I allowed myself only a few hours at the fairgrounds because I didn’t think there was much that interested me.

Until now, that is. I see that what you need is a “guide” who loves the fair and has been going for decades, really knows their way around so you don’t have to constantly consult a map. It helps if the guide likes some of the same things you like, especially a variety of foods and beverages. It helps if the guide will sit down when you want to sit down, and get you up and moving again with some new enticement.

Here are some things I’ve learned now that I have been guided at The Fair:

1. Take out a small loan to cover costs.

2. Bring a spare pair of comfortable shoes for when your feet get tired, in a backpack or some bag easy to sling over your shoulder, to hold all the stuff you will pick up along the way.

3. If you’re parking at a Shuttle Bus Lot, remember to factor in, time-wise (if you’re meeting someone), the fact that the shuttle will probably be making other stops before landing at the gate. And REMEMBER THE NAME OF YOUR LOT for the return trip.

4.If meeting your friends at the Fair, choose a place near something interesting where there are plenty of benches and freedom to browse. Rather than a set meeting time, pick a time range, i.e. “between 10 and 10:30”.

5. Give yourself at least an hour for the Fine Arts Building so you can find Hans’ (PJ’s husband’s) photo of Milwaukee Avenue.

6. Don’t try to avoid eating – just accept that you will eat and drink plenty of stuff you ordinarily wouldn’t, and it will not kill you. Try something you’ve never heard of, like (OMG) the Australian Battered Potatoes (heavenly without any sauce, thank you). If it looks like way too much food (largely because it’s the 4th food stand you’ve been to), you can split it with a friend, making it almost affordable, or take some home.

7. If there is an event (like ice cream tasting) scheduled at a set time, plan your itinerary around that, especially if Beth-Ann is going to win the prize for creating the ice cream flavor.

8. Don’t forget the Horticulture Building – there is beer sampling, and a display of seed mosaics not to be missed. (There are even rather funny political ones by left-leaning souls.)

9. Ask at an information booth – near the animal buildings – for directions to the llamas (staffers in the far flung booths only pretend to know).

10. It’s ok to let the llamas nibble on you fingers. BRING YOUR CAMERA (which I forgot) so you can get a photo of the llama giving your guide a kiss.

11. Be sure to see the chickens or rabbits, whatever is housed in the Sheep/Poultry Barn – you would NOT BELIEVE how many different sizes and colors of chickens there are! (Unfortunately, goats were not present that day.)

12. Let yourself get teary at all the beauty you will encounter – this only happened to me about a dozen times, as I observed such exquisite masterpieces grown or created by ordinary people among whom I spend my days here in Minnesota.

All in all, I had a wonderful day at the Fair, and can now understand why people go again and again (and again and again). Next time I’ll bring the camera.

(Add your own tips if you like.)

When have you relied on a guide?

76 thoughts on “Go With a Guide”

  1. Although I’ve never been to a state fair in my life, I’ve had countless “guides”. Your question is a lovely excuse to recall some of the mentors and angels who’ve presented themselves precisely when I most needed them. In college, there were a couple of professors who took me under their wings and encouraged enthusiasm for my major. In graduate school, a program director secured a Bush Fellowship to help me, a single mother of three, complete my degree. By far the most important guide in my life was my life-saving therapist when I was about 40. This funny-looking little gay man played the role of both mother and father to the sadly lost child within and lovingly guided me through the darkest valley in my life. His last name was Goodman; indeed he was such a good man. I recall, in my anxiety about being dependent on him, “How will I know when I’m done with therapy?” He replied; “You’ll be having a crisis and reach for the phone to call me, then you’ll put it back in the cradle because you’ll know exactly what I’d say to you – and you’ll say it to yourself instead”.

    A few years later, I would become a therapist and guide many others out of their valleys, but the lessons learned from Goodman would be the foundation of working with people far more than all the classes or books in two graduate programs. I now understand what he tried to teach me so many years ago: there is no greater reward than assisting another human being to discover just how loveable he or she is and has been all along.


    1. very nice cb. but you do need to get to the fair. my daughters did line dancing kind of stuff at the leinie stage to the bad larrys yesterdya afternoon. they encouraged dancing during the evening performance we went back for to sit and wait for it to get dark so we could go tho the haunted house to finish the evening off. oh by the way if you are going next year and want to be given a lifelong gift, i will share my way of getting to the fair without getting involved in traffic backups. park and walk everytime in my own little secret corner of the world.


  2. Good morning. For the most part I am not very likely to use a guide. I must admit there have been a few times when a guide has shown me some things I found interesting that I wouldn’t have found by myself. Friends have taken me to see things they knew I would like to see. I suppose they were guiding me, but I didn’t think of them as guides.

    I think educators and therapists should be facilitators and are not really guides. If a guide can be a facilitator who helps you find your path, than I guess I have benefited from the help of some educators that were facilitators. I guess therapists who facilitate could be considered to be guides if guiding is done in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the person being guided.

    I am tempted to join groups being lead by guides in art museums because the guides that I have over heard seem to know things about that art that would be of interest to me. On the other hand, I also hear these guides engaging the people they are guiding in conversations that really don’t interest me.


  3. I’ve heard some really good music at the fair and it was not at the main stage. There are some smaller stages that have good music that is mostly or completely local. I especially remember a performance by a local gospel choir that I thought was amazing.


  4. glad to hear you got a chance to go to the fair with someone who could help you understand the finer points. i love the fair and got to go yesterday. no mine sota donuts for the taste test but a great fair just the same. new stuff is always evolving. the home deopt building back but the animal building where linda works is a gathering place for the folks who like plastic buckets. they were giving away the orange plastic buckets at 430 or so and the people carrying around a bucket were huge.. how much would i have to pay you to carry around a thing the size of a watermelon that will weigh as much as a watermelon in no time after you start filling it full of state fair stuff. catalogs and literature on things of interest can get you if you are not careful. i saw an older couple walking around at about 9pm with their buckets packed full of literature , rulers and hats and odds and ends that were given out as freeebies during the day. bag ladies with a home depot bucket instead of a grocery cart. the people watching was phenominal. the grandmpas who have that last look of a person form another world who are great reperestatives of the life from the world they came from . the old norskie farmers coming to the far to see the newest in hay baling equiptment. my kids love going through the campers every year. they used to get mad when they were little and i would go to the sportmans show and look at all the campers and pick the one with the bunkbeds because it fit our family and then not buy it. now they get it. its fun and another item on our checklist. my daughters went to the fair with their friends families this year before going with us and they reported back that not too many people get it. they dont see the good stuff. there is no chance that going with someone else will allow you to see all the important stuff. the quilts the school projects and incredible things coming out of wood shop or home ec. (they dont call it home ec anymore) the art building (hans picture is one i have seen before maybe in the magazine but i think somewhere else. if he has that eye for photography as a rule and not luck of the beginner he should go there more often. it is a magic piece. that has the feeling of transporting you to another place while seeing the picture behind the picture.. truly marvelous) the cattlebarns sheepbarns goatsbarns chickenbarns bunnies cows horses and other critters too. do those people who are in the pig barns know there is a problem in the pig barns? my 11 year old asked. (she had been there with two other families who wouldnt allow the kids to step foot in the pig barn) yes dear they eat and sleep in there and they are the ones who are the pig industry in this country and bring you your bacon for breakfast and ham for lunch. on the way out of the fair we left through the pig barn and there was a celebration of the pig and sheep kids in honor of the fact that there is a place on this earth where they can go and be made to feel normal and have a group of other people that understand that the sheeps rump buing higher and the fullness of the udder and the straightness of the back are all things we understand and strive for but that the quality of the person showing the sheep sometimes is overlooked by those in attendance, its not about the blue ribbons its about the experience. the fair is a great place to create great memory banks to be filed away for later. it is a place to live for the moment and savor life. my 19 year old missed the fair this year. i think his friends didnt want to go because its not cool. some of lifes best stuff is not cool but it sure is wonderful. kind of like life on the trail. im not sure the trail is cool but it sure is wonderful.


    1. tim, you and your family have way more stamina and enthusiasm than I can muster for anything at the moment. I admire how much you can pack into a day. Hans went to The Fair yesterday at 7 A.M. with our much younger next door neighbors. They came back around 1:30 P.M., Hans a complete wreck, he’s still hurting this morning. I think he might also have overindulged in some foods that didn’t agree with him; he looks a little green around the gills this morning. Thanks for the nice comment about his photo. He’s been taking photos since he was 17, but it’s only within the last few years that he has actually begun to share and show some of his photos.


      1. I’m sorry Hans “stayed too long at the fair” (that’s the name of a great Bonnie Raitt song, by the way). My first fair, the Iowa State Fair, was when I was 12. Mike Biery’s mom took him and me. When I didn’t show up at home, my mom got scared and called Mike’s mom. She said that she had walked me all the way to the front door of our house. That’s where Mom found me, sound asleep standing up, leaning on the side of the house.


  5. I can’t say that I have ever had a guide. Not really. I can’t afford that kind of thing, and my whole approach to life has been to study my own mistakes and try to learn from them. Thus I am a self-made man and a towering monument to the hazards of DIY. That might explain my odd fascination with “This Old House.” After a lifetime of doing things my way, improvising and taking shortcuts and using wrenches as hammers, I have a fascination with a show that shows people doing things the RIGHT way.

    I could have used a guide to the State Fair, for it took me decades for me to finally blunder into all the fascinating little corners of that banquet of delights. I have profited from friends who shared some of their favorite areas and activities with me. For years I sneered at Ye Old Mill, which seemed tacky and stupid. Then one day a cute blond lady who could kiss talked me into climbing into one of those little boats. When I came out the other end of that tunnel I finally understood why Ye Old Mill has been so popular so long.


  6. I moved here 30+ years ago knowing nobody but my boss and his wife. I started working in August and was surprised when my boss said, “Tomorrow Carol is coming to take you to the State Fair.” I argued that I had work to do. His response was that the Fair was how you learned about Minnesota and how to be a Minnesotan. Well she was a task -oriented social worker who had me climb on tractors, talk to 4Hers, and learn about all the voluntary organizations in the state. I was amazed that she could get around without a map and that she ran into folks she knew. I still remember the visceral understanding of the length of Minnesota’s winters I gained looking at the craft projects that were obviously done during a looong cold season.
    I haven’t missed a Fair since and still view it as a great learning experience.This year the man whose collection of seed bags is displayed with the Crop Art gave a delightful description of the bags and their history to me, my son, and his girlfriend.
    My son went to the Fair weeks after arriving from Korea. When he was little his bone disease made him too fragile for rides, but we still spent 10+ hours at the Fair. He says it was years before he knew there were rides. I was delighted that he was shocked his girlfriend had never seen the butterheads and he quickly guided her to the Dairy Building.
    The best guides create new generations of guide to follow in their footsteps carrying pronto pups and chocolate malts!


    1. wonderful story ba. imagine not knowing of the butterheads. i think in all honesty that if all minnesota transplants had to go to the fair with a guide to show them what to see in the state, the transition to minnesotan would be greatly enhanced.


    2. Nice job, BiR, and thanks for including Hans’ photo in your guide. I’ll remember you guide for next year when I hope to be in shape to attend. To that end, it may not be bad idea to start training in advance (like preparing for a marathon), for all the walking I’ll be doing. Another piece of advice, never, ever wear new shoes to the Fair. I did that one year, big mistake.

      The Fair is a marvelous place to people watch, but I prefer early mornings at the Fair, before the crowds get too big and the heat oppressive. I also enjoy watching the demonstrations of various kitchen and other gadgets; some of those demonstrators are true masters of the craft. In the animal barns, I like to visit with the kids who are tending the animals. As tim mentioned, there’s an art to showing sheep, and those kids are really adept at it. I’m particularly fond of horses, so I like to get in a horse show or two. I think it’s an excellent idea to familiarize yourself ahead of time with what’s going on any given day, and pick a day that suits your interests or has discounted tickets for seniors.

      I generally skip the Midway area, and I’ll never again go into the birthing barn, not sure that’s what it’s called. I also have no desire to watch a cat or dog being neutered or spayed, too squeamish, I guess. Fascinating, sure, but I don’t want to see it.

      I’m still trying to think of a time when I have used a guide, I’ll get back later if I think of something.


        1. Sorry, Ben, but no I did not. The minute slime and other fluids started secreting from back end of the cow, I was in more pain than the cow not to mention ready to throw up. Couldn’t get out there fast enough. Didn’t wan’t to be there for the actual birth. I would have been a disaster as a nurse.


        2. my dad would be able to relate. he was assigned as a medic in ww2 only to discover he couldnt stand the sight of blood or open wounds. they stationed him in long beach where he got to look after folks coming back or messed up over here, i came hoem to get stitches or something as a kid, i wanted to go somewhere other than my dad. he couldnt handle it.


      1. That’s all right PJ. It is messy business…
        (Potentially gross story here:)
        When I was milking cows I didn’t have a problem touching after birth and all that as long as it was still warm. But if it was cold, for example a cow didn’t clean and I was trying to pull the rest out…. OMG. Gross me out.


  7. May I be a little OT on a holiday? I haven’t posted a Liam update for some time . . . the world’s coolest grandson. This weekend his dad kept telling Liam to behave. Liam (2) hotly replied, “Daddy, I AM being HAVED!”


  8. Afternoon—
    I’ve had mentors / guides in lots of different things. Farming, theater (set building, scenic design, lighting, programming).
    My folks were very active in the county fair and hence I became active in the county fair as well. My parents were both 4H leaders and I and my siblings were in 4H so that carried over to the fair. I have fond memories of fair week. (Watching girls) As a teenager, having a week without much parental supervision and able to hang out at the fair (watching girls) was a pretty nice week. I spent a lot of time in the video arcade tent. (Watching Girls).
    We stored the county Farm Bureau booth in our shed and hauled it into the fair a week before it opened to set to get the booth set up. Also, being members of ADA (American Dairy Association) we worked the ‘All you can drink’ milk booth several times / week. (Watching Girls) When the malts came along we worked in the malt stand as well. (Watching Girls)
    After I was out of 4H my Dad joined the fair board so he was setting up the fair for 3 weeks before, during and a week after.
    Mom ran the ‘Blue Stage’ (entertainment) and helped with some of the Home Ec projects, open class exhibits, like quilts. Mom would hire her Grandchildren to help out on the stage so they got to spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa and hang out at the fair.
    Our son was born August 3rd, during the fair. We called the fair office and had the secretary announce over the loud speaker across the entire grounds “Congratulations Joe, you’re a Grandpa again!” Dad was in a building and didn’t hear the announcement, but people started congratulating him. They managed to make time to get to the hospital later that night…

    We have even had family reunions at the fair.
    I never took animals to the fair. That just looked like way too much work. I took projects in Wood working, Arts and Crafts, Aerospace, and demonstrations.

    I haven’t been to the State Fair in a long time… even missed the county fair this year as that’s when we went to Mississippi.


  9. I guess I’ve pretty much avoided guides too. Maybe it’s stubbornness, cantankerousness, uppity-ness, or just my love of exploring on my own and learning what I can through my own devices.

    I haven’t been to the Fair very often. We didn’t go there as a family when I was a kid. I would have loved the animals, though. The only times I’ve been there were when I was assigned to work in the DNR building, like last Thursday. You don’t get to see much of the fair from there – the WCCO booth, the road going up to the stadium, something called “Big Fat Bacon,” which I didn’t try, and “Luigi’s Fries,” which sounded better than they actually were. I did see lots and lots of people, and tried to answer their questions.

    I was relieved for a break about 1 p.m. and followed the line of that overhead trolley thing up the hill to where I thought the Kemps booth might be. Astonishingly, I FOUND IT! I got my little serving of MsD ice cream and headed back to work. I have no idea where the Fine Arts are. I don’t know if it’s far from the DNR building or not. I guess a guide would have been helpful, but I didn’t have much time anyway. I got off work at 5:30 and I was tired. I kind of wanted a beer but I was wearing DNR clothing and didn’t feel like it would be appropriate. I knew I had a long drive ahead of me and that traffic would be bad, so I split.

    Maybe I should go with Barbara or tim next time. You guys know how to have fun!


    1. Krista — the Fine Arts building is my favorite, the one I spend the most time in. The DNR building is actually near the center of the fairgrounds. The Fine Arts building has its back to Snelling Avenue. You would go north and east from the DNR building. Putting it another way, if you start at the huge Education building and go north you hit the 4H building and then the next one is Fine Arts.


    1. i saw her and didnt enjoy it at all. was she at the rock bend folk festival last year? she is fine at what she does, i just dont enjoy it. i thought i recognized the name so i hung out waiting for it to get dark then out she came and away i went. last year at therock bend i enjoyed the music all day and then was bummed that they screwed it up with a tina turner wannabe to end the day. thats what makes the world go round. different strokes for different folks you guys go ahead and enjoy her music so she can keep eating. that a good thing


    1. that was a moment i will always remember. i took a songwriting course with ann reed about this time and the stuff she did right before our very ears on the rdio was the same stuff she taught in the class and look how well it came out.


  10. I think I could have used a guide for my day today – sort of meandered through the day and all I have to show for it is a slightly less messy dining room table and one less TV in the house (brought the old one up to a friend who moved into a new apartment minus a TV). I rode bikes with Daughter – which is useful and good in a very different way, stopping at Grandma’s house for a visit (and a water break). Not a bad day in all, but with a guide I might not have felt so stymied by “what do I do now” when so many things on my mental “to do” list had to be postponed or moved to another spot on the list due to time or heat (or both – not gonna start cooking tomatoes for sauce at 4pm when it’s 90 degrees out).

    I have been going to the state fair since I was a kid and the dairy barn and the butter heads are on my “must see” list still. Had to adjust some to Husband’s “must see” list (which includes some different things than mine), and Daughter likes time on the “kidway” (a smaller midway with age appropriate rides – though she is getting too big for some now). I didn’t know to look for Hans’ photo when we were there last weekend or I would have looked when I was in the Fine Arts building – I wound up with less time there than I had hoped. Sigh.

    One favorite fair story: my brother had gotten to be old enough (he was junior high age as I recall) that my parents let him and a buddy go by themselves to the fair on the bus (it was a different time then). Apparently they spent a lot of time on the midway playing games – my brother became determined at one in particular as it had something he felt his kid sister needed for her birthday (nice brother, no?). On the bus ride home the bus driver joshed him about need to pay extra fare for his prize, but softened immediately when it was understood that this thing was going home to a kid sister. I don’t recall how, but somehow it got in the house and hidden away without me seeing it until my birthday a few weeks later. My brother had spent countless quarters, a good chunk of his time at the fair, and perhaps some of his dignity riding the bus home with a 3 foot tall stuffed penguin. So his kid sister (me) could have a giant penguin to add to her collection of the critters. It’s one of the few from my once extensive collection that is still extant, if a little dusty. Thanks Big Brother. 🙂


    1. i was humbled when i walked into my little sisters house about ten years ago and gave her crap about some cheesy stuffed animal on her shelf and she told me she kept it because i brought it home from the fair for her when she was a little girl. i forgot.


  11. Found at the Fair, posted at the demonstration kitchen in the Creative Activities building:

    Blue Ribbon Poem
    Day 5
    Jana Bouma

    To know the melon’s soul, choose
    the large knife, the heavy blade.
    With swift stroke, a rupture of the dull
    globe, two glistening suns that wobble
    and slash, their slippery afterbirths ready to spill
    from the hollows of their bellies.
    You will think you see it, pulsing in the blaze
    of fruited orange. But it’s all show
    and dazzle. You cannot see the melon’s
    soul. You will not know it until
    the moment it


    1. That’s marvelous! Thanks, Linda. Actually, that’s so good, I’m going to calligraphy it on a small card to give, along with a perfect melon available at the Farmers’ Market right now, as a small “thank you” gift to my friend who hosted last night’s dinner. I am glad that it’s slosh and not slash; what a difference a word makes!


  12. my kids have offered to give tours at disny in orland on a couple of ocasions and also at yellowstone when we were there regularly. we loved the guided tours where the rangers would tell us stuff that would years of study to get the real life application of, i stayed in a bandbin the lake district of england with a lady whose father was the map maker for the area 50 years earlier and she guided me to all the cool places i never ever would have found, my whole trip around the uk years ago was following the frommers lady around to where she suggested and noting the stuff she said was worthwhile. it took a mundane drive about trip and made it a real interesting stop here and there at many interesting places i would never have seen. i have previously mentioned here at the blog my smithsonian tag along with a group of people on an interesting tour. it was very well led and so i hung around. at the ned i wen up to the lady and commented what a wonderful tour it had been into the back rooms the vaults the real treasure areas of the smithsonian colectiton and she told me i was very lucky and she was going to ask me to leave but no one really seemd to mind and i was well behaved and seemed so interersted. it ws atour for the high buck donors and way beyod what a normal tour woud have been. i got a tour of the glensheen mansion in duluth by the lady who was a staff member while the congdon family was there. great stories about all sorts of interesting tidbits about how the people who lived there thought about the stuff and why there were pineapples in the tiles of the fireplace facades and how the hores barn had really been used for horses until the gas powered buggys took over.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s