A couple of weeks ago, Husband and I flew up to Minnesota to visit some of his family and attend the Minnesota State Fair.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate State Fairs. I grew up in Southern West Virginia, where everyone makes a Really Big Deal about the lame as hell State Fair every. Single. Year. I’ve went a handful of times, and never managed to actually have fun. Granted, when I was little my mother wouldn’t let me out of her sight the few times we went, nor would she let me ride any of the cool rides. But as an adult, I found I still thought it was lame and boring. The West Virginia State Fair focuses mainly on the musical acts it is somehow able to get. And yes, a lot of the bigger names are country acts, but the Fair has boasted Brittany Spears, Justin Beiber, and even Alice Cooper (the only one I have ever cared about, and of course it was the year I moved). The rides and games are small-town carnival caliber. There are no fun, disgusting, envelope-pushing fried things to eat (mostly funnel cakes and corndogs, if I remember correctly). There are a lot of quilting and livestock and gardening exhibits. Horses are a big deal; there are races and jumping and a bunch of other equestrian things I never cared about. The last trip I made was at the age of twenty five, in the hope that, without my mother there to ruin it, I could have some fun. I didn’t. I never bothered going again.
So you might be wondering why the hell I would fly to Minnesota to go to the State Fair. To be honest, it wasn’t exactly my idea. Minnesota has the second largest State Fair in the country. It’s second only to Texas. My husband had talked about it before – all of the really weird and bad food you can get, mostly. Lots of deep fried things. But I had no interest in ever going. The West Virginia State Fair was what I had to go on, in terms of comparison. And more and bigger wasn’t an appealing prospect. That is, until my husband started getting me the Murder by Month series, by Jess Lourney a couple of years ago. The series is set in Battle Lake, Minnesota, a small town not too far from Fergus Falls where his Dad resides. I started reading September Fair at the gym. In it, the main character goes off to the Minnesota State Fair to cover the event for her small-town paper. At the beginning of the book, the Queen of the Dairy is preparing to have her head carved out of butter. She puts a parka on over her pageant gown, dons her crown, and enters a revolving, refrigerated booth where she will sit still and smiling while a butter artist carves her head out of a giant block of butter in front of hundreds of gawking fair goers. And then she’s murdered.
I came upstairs laughing, and told Alex all about this silly plot point, which I assumed the author had made up. You can imagine my surprise when he informed me that this is, indeed, a Real Thing That Happens at the Minnesota State Fair. He promised to take me sometime – so I could eat deep fried candy bars like the main character in the book, and see the carved heads in the Dairy Building. I was not excited at this prospect, but I really didn’t think he’d actually make me go. Minnesota wasn’t on my list of Places I Want to Visit anyway, and it isn’t his favorite place to be either.
But this year, he decided to go back to see his Dad and his grandmother. She’s closing in on one hundred years old, and Alex missed her 99th Birthday Party because of Chewie’s illness. She wasn’t able to travel to our wedding after party, either. The trip was mostly about seeing her, but we decided to fit in a few other things along the way.
Our first day in Minneapolis we just drove around and Alex showed me things. He took me to Minnetonka to meet his friend Dani in person for the first time, and we had dinner at Qcumbers with his best friend Chris from College. But the next day…we got up early to hit the Fair!
We went with Alex’s friend (and frequent travel buddy) Dan. I held out no hope of seeing the actual carving in progress; I was prepared to accept the finished heads as proof that this is indeed a Real Thing that Happens. Boy was I delighted when we finally got to the Dairy Building to see this:
Dan had already sent me a list of the new fried monstrosities at the Fair this year. Though I was determined to be good and not derail my diet, I’ll admit that some of this stuff looked pretty interesting. I had been really excited for the Taco Sliders and the Cicchetti Cones, but they were not to be. Alex and Dan both had a “dossaint,” Minnesota’s answer to the cronut (I tasted it but was not impressed). Alex and I had Fudge Puppies – belgian waffles baked onto sticks and topped with chocolate and whipped cream (we both opted out of the whipped cream, which created much confusion). Everyone had hot roasted corn, and we all tasted the mini-donut ice cream. I got to taste cheese curds (deep fried and cheese are two of my favorite food groups) and we all shared a bucket of soft, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. We checked out the 4H projects and the art gallery. We didn’t ride any of the rides, but that was mostly because we didn’t have all day to spend and we wanted to concentrate on other things.
After the Fair, we went back to our hotel. It had a waterpark in it. I had no interest in this – I knew going in that it would be overrun with children, and I was right. So Dan and Alex checked it out while I had a massage instead. Then it was off to dinner to meet some of Alex’s friends!
I was excited to go to Psycho Suzi’s. I’d heard a lot about it from Alex leading up to the trip. It’s a retro Tiki Bar, and from what I heard, I expected it to be full of rockabilly and Goth types. I was sadly disappointed, as we were seated next to a table of DudeBros – apparently not something that would have happened a few years ago. Still, some of the waitresses looked the part! And I’m sure the food there is good; apparently they’re famous for their tater tots, which I can’t eat. I had a Wayfarer sandwich, which I took most of the bread off, some really good slaw, and I helped Alex eat an order of cheese curds. He had a good time catching up with his friends, though, so that’s what mattered.
I brought along my slightly vintage halter dress to wear, and a black hair flower (I couldn’t find a giant red one in time). It was really hard to get a decent photo, but I tried.
The next morning, we started on the long drive to visit Alex’s dad. He lives in Fergus Falls, a small town about two hours from Minneapolis. His grandmother, who is closing in on one hundred years old, lives about another half-hour’s drive from there, in North Dakota. So the plan was to pick up his Dad, stop at a little Victorian Age restaurant halfway called The Wilkin to eat, and then continue on to see grandma. This is the part of the trip I was dreading. I hate roadtrips because of my bladder condition, and I hate driving with Alex because he has no patience.
The Wilkin was great – a beautiful little building and very old. They’ve tried to keep the architecture as authentic as possible, but while they boast that the decor is authentic, as well, I don’t think Marylin Monroe was “quite the thing” during the Victorian era! Still, I was charmed. It reminded me a great deal of Macado’s back home (without the dragon, of course). The food was pretty good, too.
Other than a really frustrating road closure and detour along the way, the road trip wasn’t so bad. North Dakota has a lot of corn. And unlike Minnesota, they don’t put fences around it. It was really hard not asking my husband to pull over so I could go running through a corn field.
It was really great seeing Alex’s grandmother. For someone her age, she’s in amazing spirits. And I think she was really happy to see us. His Dad took lots of photos of the three of us, so hopefully I will have a nice one to post soon.
Our hotel in Fergus Falls had a wonderful whirlpool bath in suite, so you can imaging how we spent our evening.
Once we got back to Minneapolis the next morning, we did the Mall of America. We’d popped in briefly the first night we were there, but didn’t have time to explore since it was almost nine p.m. , so I thought it would be a good way to spend our last day given we had no plans with anyone. As malls go, it’s not bad. There is a lot of everything. Alex bemoans the fact that all of the small, indy stores that made the mall great are all gone, replaced with chains and big-named mall stores like The Gap and Victoria’s Secret (of which there are multiples). I still think it’s neat the there is a mall in the world large enough to have a theme park, even if it is a lame, Nickelodeon one full of Spongebob crap.
The Rainforest Cafe was my favorite thing, followed closely by the Bettie Page Store. The Rainforest Cafe had an animatronic python hanging from the ceiling….you can guess why I liked the Bettie Page Store, even if the dress I wanted wasn’t available in my size.