Of course, on the day of her actual birthday, Tory was exhausted from a weekend of non-stop birthday partying. Classic example of me trying to shove too much excitement into one day which inevitably ends with a child meltdown. Andi and I hemmed and hawed over going, but finally decided to go for it last minute when the kids fell asleep on the car ride home to the Cities. We pulled up to the State Fair around dinnertime -- perfect timing to stuff our faces full of fried foods.
For the record, we always park directly across the street from the fairgrounds in someone's yard. It costs an arm and a leg (typically $20 or so) which seems absurd for a few hours of parking, but it's well worth it not to battle transportation or a long walk back to our car when the kids hit their breaking point.
We walked into the fair around 6:00pm, and found the streets surprisingly empty for a weekend evening. The air temperature was perfect (low 80's) as the sun began to go down. I'm so glad we visited the fair this day vs. later in the week when temperatures proved much hotter and more humid!
Our main fair objectives were to find some good food to eat, visit some of the kid exhibits, and to leave before the kids reached lost their minds from exhaustion. Andi and I were both a little uneducated when it came to "new foods at the fair" this year, or "new exhibits." We just walked along and stopped by whatever found our fancy.
First food stop was for a Pronto Pup which, I have to say, doesn't stretch as far as it did in the days of just Andi and I. By the time Andi fed some to our famished kids, he and I only got a bite or two for ourselves. Aden, particularly, was a big fan of this fair food item.
Next, we stumbled upon the Nickelodeon booth and saw the Little Charmers characters there for a meet & greet. Tory wasn't sure what to think about seeing some of her favorite television characters up close in person. She didn't want to wait in line to have her picture taken with them, and sort of stared off into space until we eventually walked away. Then, for the next 30 minutes or so, she repeated in a trance... "They were bigger than I expected them to be!" I think she couldn't quite believe her eyes.
We stopped by the Alphabet Forest to spell our names in laminated letters. Taking Aden out of the stroller to play at the other stations seemed like too much of a gamble, so we continued onward.
The Little Farm Hands exhibit is a must-do for the kids, so we stopped by there next. Aden was OBSESSED with the kid's tractors and ran around the place like a toddler maniac. Tory took things much more seriously and collected each item from the farm stations, then carefully planted vegetables in the pretend garden.
Aden started to get restless after we left the farm, so we set out for some roasted corn on the cob. Give Aden a cob of corn this summer and he'd sit quietly for at least 30 minutes gnawing on it. We didn't see the infamous corn roaster anywhere nearby, so Andi stopped by a random bbq food stand and bought one. He split the ear in half and gave each kid a piece.
By this time in the evening, the sun was already starting to go down and I knew our time at the fair was limited. We passed by the kiddie mid-way and Tory started to beg to go on some rides. I really
wanted needed some deep-fried pickles -- a Minnesota State Fair must for me -- but I put aside my own desires for those of my kids' when we saw the Butterfly Habitat.
The kids love the butterfly habitat at the Lincoln Children's Zoo, and I knew they'd like this one, too. Except, instead of the beautiful, lush gardens like at the zoo, the fair set-up was akin to a sweaty tent filled with hundreds of people and lots of poor, trampled butterflies. Luckily, Tory didn't seem to notice the dead insects spread around the floor.
We were running low on daylight, and it was clear we'd have time to do one more thing. Tory chirped away about going on some rides and I still hadn't had my fried pickles. I was truly hungry by this point since I'd only eaten a nibble of a Pronto Pup right after we arrived. I think I might be the only person to ever attend the fair and actually LEAVE hungry!
Like the good mom I am, I decided to make my daughter's day and skip the pickle stand (which was on the other side of the fairgrounds) so Tory could ride the ferris wheel. It was her birthday, after all. I stopped by the closest stand nearby to buy some french fries and Andi got some cheese curds. We gobbled them up and headed over to the mid-way.
The ferris wheel glowed against the dimming night's sky, and she was sure that was the ride for her. Andi and I agreed he'd ride with Tory while I waited on the ground with Aden and the stroller. It seemed to spin on forever -- both Andi and I agreed later. Andi said to Tory as they rotated up and around for the sixth time or so, "I think they probably let us go a few more times around since it's your birthday." Tory responded flatly, "I don't think so, Dad. That's how many times it goes around." She told him. Humph.
I think we could've stayed at the fair for a few more hours as we never even made it over to the farm animals, any of the business vendors, or to my beloved fried pickles. Once nighttime fell, Andi and I decided it best to head home to avoid ending our day with kiddie meltdowns. Next year, maybe we'll make a whole day of visiting the fair ... it sure was a lot of fun.