Monday, September 15, 2014

Minnesota State Fair 2014

Well, this is a bit after the fact but I just realized I never recapped this year's visit to the Minnesota State Fair. I can't not write about it here because then it's like it never happened, and that's just sad. Really, I'm wondering where the end of summer has gone. Didn't we visit the fair, like, yesterday? It sure feels that way. It's been one thing after another with Tory's 3rd birthday, the start of preschool and our new fall routine, a bridal shower for Lindsay last weekend and a string of long days of work and travel for Andi. Life has been busy, and it's left me doing a double-take at the calendar. Anyway, somewhere in there, we made our annual trek to the Minnesota State Fair.

We're one of 'those people' who make it a point to visit the State Fair every year. I really enjoy it -- the awesome people watching, the food, the atmosphere -- and, it's so fun to watch it unfold through the eyes of our children. Typically, Andi scoots out of work a little early one week day during the fair's 10-day span and we spend an evening there. This was also Aden's first visit to the State Fair, so I was extra excited to take him.

One afternoon, I loaded up the kids after nap time and drove to Andi's office to pick him up. Traffic was horrible and it seemed to take forever to drive all the way across the Cities to get to the fair. By the time we arrived it was 5 o'clock-ish. We paid for our tickets, walked into the entrance and ran right into our friends Josh and Krista from the lake cabin. Krista and I talked about our families going to the fair separately, but we didn't coordinate the date/time so it was funny to run into them first-thing upon arrival ... especially amongst thousands and thousands of people. We decided to join Josh, Krista and their little girls in walking around for a while. I spotted the Alphabet Forest right away which was on my State Fair bucket list, so we stopped to check it out.

Here we go!

Spelling the kids' names at the Alphabet Forest

The Aphabet Forest was so cute! Tory loved the word activities and they were perfectly targeted for her age. Even Aden enjoyed picking up rubber duckies swimming in 'word find' tub. We spelled the kids' names with foam pool noodles and laminated letters of the alphabet, and had our picture taken together. Cute, cute cute.

Next, we visited Krista's sister at a nearby booth and watched Hannah and Tory dance to live music playing on the Front Porch stage nearby. The girls loved the music and attracted quite the ooh's and ahh's from passerby's. 

Josh, Krista, Andi, the kids and I continued along toward the Little Farm Hands exhibit. This was another 'must do' on my State Fair bucket list because it's so gosh-darn adorable seeing the kids wearing little aprons and pretending to be farmers. I knew Tory would love it even more this year since she's finally old enough to operate her own tractor and "plant" her own seeds in the soil. I assumed correctly, and Tory had a ball acting out the farm activities.

At this point, Andi and I decided to split off from Josh and Krista so we could visit some home improvement booths. Our kids were fading fast, and it was suddenly apparent we needed to get some food in their bellies - STAT. Such a rookie move on my part loosing track of time. It was already 6:30pm which is way past Tory's dinnertime and nearing Aden's evening bottle and bedtime. I think we stopped for a Pronto Pup which Andi and Tory shared and then we booked it through massive crowds of people to get over to the home improvement booths before our kids lost it completely and we were forced to leave the fair alltogether. We walked around the grandstand FOREVER trying to find a stroller-friendly entrance to the second-floor of the building. Finally, I realized it was on the outside of the structure and, unfortunately, directly in the mix of people queuing up for the Tim McGraw concert that night. Super bad timing, so many people to push the double stroller through and Tory was losing her mind by this point. All this chaos to visit the Lumber Liquidators booth for a state fair discount they ended up not even offering - GAH! At some point I shouted for Andi to toss me some money and I bought Tory some popcorn to shut her pie hole fill up her belly and stop whining like a wacko preschooler.

We booked it out the busy grandstand vendor area in search of more food, and ended up stopping at a carousel along the way. This was the one thing Tory said she wanted to do at the fair, and as soon as she saw it she exclaimed, "I want to go on the merry-go-round!" Andi stayed back with Aden and Tory and I rode the fastest-moving carousel I've ever been on. Seriously, so fast - I was dizzy by the end. Tory loved it though and properly named her plastic carousel horse "Sparky." (Of course.) State Fair highlight for Tory, for sure.

Next, we stopped by the Blue Moon Drive-In Theatre to try the new SnoRibbons fair food I'd seen advertised on the news (disappointing; such a weird texture) and also for some Korean Pork Tacos (also disappointing; they were cold). While Andi ordered food, Aden decided to absolutely lose his mind right then and there. It was 7 o'clock, sure enough. I'm sure we were quite the sight as I scrambled to mix and feed Aden a bottle (OMG at 20 lbs., he is so super heavy to hold in my arms for long periods of time) while also corralling Tory in the stroller / beside me. It was ... stressful.

Andi came back with our food and I shouted, "Help me with them! I need a beer!" all at once. Oh, the fun of being a parent sometimes. Miraculously, Aden fell asleep in the stroller (first time ever, I think) and Tory turned back into a normal child after we fed her some pork tacos, SnoRibbons ice cream and popcorn. (Parent of the year award for healthiest dinner, right there).

All was right with the (State Fair) world then, so we decided to stay a little longer and enjoy the evening. It was a gorgeous summer night - sunny, no wind and in the mid-70's - and once again, being at the fair felt electric. The nice weather brought people out in masses, so every food stand was packed. Finally, Andi found a vendor with no line and I got a tasty beer. Ah!

No trip to the Minnesota State Fair is complete without a stop by the deep fried pickles stand. We made our way over to the food vendor and purchased an order to share. Tory loved the fried pickles this year, and gobbled them up right along with me. A weakness for all things deep-fried; just like her mother. There were so many other things I wanted to see and eat at the fair, but it was nearly 8:45pm and we knew we'd better hit the road for home.

Even though this year's fair experience was a bit stressful at times, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Most of our kid-drama was due to poor timing on my part. I should've realized the kids were hungry for dinner shortly after we arrived and any evening activity these days is difficult with Aden's early bedtime. The State Fair is all about making memories as a family for me, so experiencing it without my kids just wouldn't be the same. I wish there would have been a time Andi and I could've gone a separate time to eat all the adult food and beverages we wanted, but I'll settle for one crazy, fun, sometimes stressful visit with my family any day. Maybe two trips in 2015 ... because we'll definitely go back again next year.

And now, our annual Minnesota State Fair video. Enjoy!


  1. Looks like another great year at the fair...I swear someday I'm going to make a trip up there for it. I've heard such great things and your recaps always make me wish I were there! The alphabet forest is just the cutests AND of course the fried foods had me from the get go.

  2. Love it! You should show Tory the Fabulous Fair Alphabet book! (it's ok if you can't find it -- I have a copy, too). She might like it now after visiting the Alphabet Forest.

    1. We don't have the Fabulous Fair Alphabet book, only the On The Day You Were Born one. Maybe I need to get one, I bet Tory would love it. She loves all things ABC's these days.