Rubber Chicken Scratchings: Brian’s Minnesota State Fair primerSue, Kaylee and I headed down to the Great Minnesota Get-Together last week and, as always, had a nice couple of days away from home. Here are some highlights.
By: Brian Matuszak, Budgeteer News
Sue, Kaylee and I headed down to the Great Minnesota Get-Together last week and, as always, had a nice couple of days away from home. Too many high-caloric stick foods were consumed (much to my lower colon’s chagrin), but, all in all, the State Fair was a wonderful end to a too-brief summer.
I have to admit; I have not always been a fan of the Minnesota State Fair. Growing up, I didn’t have a history of seeking out crowded, hot and/or sticky places that are inconveniently located outside of my normal base of operations — like Floodwood during Catfish Days, or Canal Park during, well … any time — but all that changed when I met my wife 20-some years ago.
Sue grew up attending the Minnesota State Fair. Her family loaded up the van every August and headed down to Falcon Heights for some good, old-fashioned fun. In fact, the State Fair trip was just one of many that the Johnson family embarked on every summer. They also made treks to Wisconsin Dells, California and other points across the great “fruited plain.”
I, however, spent most of my youthful summers working in the small country tavern that my family owned out in Saginaw, right next to some railroad tracks. Those were memorable times, to be sure, but the circumstances didn’t lend themselves to summer traveling. Instead of getting in the car and heading off for an adventure, my siblings and I were too busy sitting in the store every day from June to September, taking quarters out of the till to blast “Radar Love” and “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” on the jukebox. Other fun included taking even more quarters out to play multiple games of pinball, pool and foosball, then eating our weight in frozen sandwiches and pizza while drinking gallons of Coke and Mountain Dew. (It’s still a mystery to me how that store went out of business.)
The point being: We didn’t travel a whole bunch, but that was OK with us kids. My brother, sister and I still managed to have our share of out-of-school summer fun, the details of which will follow in another column someday when Mom is out of town.
But back to the State Fair.
This year, we varied our traditional route through the fairgrounds. Kaylee wanted to see the Webkinz booth in Baldwin Park, so we went there first. This threw us off, as we don’t usually get to this area until later in the day. But we went with it — we were being state fair rebels. In fact, it felt so good that we kept it up and decided to visit other areas that were new to us, as well as all of our favorite fair spots.
I knew you’d want to read about it — well, I knew my Mom would want to read about it — so here’s a brief synopsis of the Matuszak Family State Fair Day:
Best State Fair sound
The Heritage Square beer guy who, promptly at 9 a.m., begins his “Breakfast, ice-cold breakfast!” chant. Whenever I hear that, I smile and know I’m at the fair. Or in Wisconsin.
Most voyeuristic locale (Silver division)
The Pet Center. We had never visited this building before, so we gave it a look-see. The dog chew toys and cat furniture were kind of interesting, but we then noticed a big group of people sitting in stands and watching a monitor. We wandered over in time to see a vet prepping a cat for surgery. We quickly wandered the other way, setting our bacon quesadillas aside for a few minutes.
Best deep-fried food
A Snickers bar, hands down. We each get one fair food treat for ourselves that we don’t have to share, and mine is always a deep-fried Snickers bar. I am embarrassed to admit that I think about this powdered sugar delicacy all the way down I-35. This year, I was a little sad because I was talked into trying a deep-fried Reese’s instead of my traditional Snickers.
It was good, but the peanut butter didn’t melt and, instead of a wonderful goo-fest like the Snickers bar, this had three distinct layers of deep-fried batter, melted chocolate and chewy peanut butter — yummy, of course, but still a disappointment. Sue tried to get me to buy my usual Snickers also, and eat it right away, since I wasn’t completely satisfied, but Kaylee wouldn’t allow it. She said she didn’t want me to die, which I thought was kind of sweet, until she followed that sentiment with “because then we’ll have to leave the fair early.”
Lamest free show
The pre-horse show charro guy at the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and he twirled a mean rope, but he also sang a Freddy Fender song (seriously) and begged for applause by having his horse bow to the audience after every … single … trick. We stumbled into these horse shows last year by accident, and they were fun, but I don’t know why they added this unnecessary, boring pre-show. Many members of the audience, including us, left after a half hour, never getting to see any of the actual horse show. Oh sure, it was free, but even at that price we paid too much.
Most voyeuristic locale (Gold division)
The CHS Miracle of Birth Center. We had never visited this building before, and I don’t anticipate making a return trip next year. It’s the only place in the entire fair where I was constantly run over, bumped, shoved and cranked at by hordes of people, all clamoring to see the “miracle” of live birth. But my pain was nothing compared to those poor expectant animal-moms, who, by the looks of their splayed legs and sounds of their wet huffs and puffs, were already experiencing a pretty uncomfortable afternoon. I agree that pink, tiny piglets and little wobbling calves are cute, but, believe me, they don’t start out that way.
I have lots more memories of the fair, but I don’t have time to share them all. I still have to deal with the ton of free stuff I crammed into my University St. Thomas bag. Those pickle hats and butter-flavored sticks of lip balm don’t unpack themselves, you know.
Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February of 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre and founder of Rubber Chicken Theater. He would like to say “break a leg” to the cast and crew of “Shout! The Mod Musical,” which opens Thursday at The Shack. It’s Rubber Chicken, served up 1960s style — just like you can get at the fair!