Holy Crap. I've done nothing, but eat like a fifteen year old boy this weekend. Quick! Somebody get me a vegetable! And if you even thing about knocking me on the head like those stupid V8 commercials....
My Mom, Sister and I decided to divide and conquer. We would share everything that we ordered so that we could maximize the food variety consumed. Matt just ate everything that came across his path. No one was feeling too good by that evening.
First, we started with the Scotch egg, sausage wrapped around a hard boiled egg (naturally) on a stick and then fried. This was our breakfast after all. It was perfect! The sausage was nicely seasoned with a little fennel and perfectly salty to match the deliciously cooked egg. It wasn't too hard, and there was none of that off putting green or odor that hard boiled eggs can occasionally have.
Next it was off to the cheese curds. The only place to get them, in my mind, is the food building, where they have that place that I think is called the Mouse Trap. There is always a line, which indicates to me, fresh curds. A cold curd or heat lamp sodden curd is a pathetic little thing. These, were bursting fresh, molten cheesy fried goodness. Ahhh...
Appetites satiated for a bit, we wandered around the agriculture building, admiring the apples, gladiolus and - wait! They have wine here!? I'd forgotten! I decided on the light red from Falconer
vineyards outside of Red Wing Minnesota. It was so tasty! It was a perfect balance of sweet and dry, crisply cutting through the cheese curd residue, yet mildly fruity sweet, perfect for a wine being consumed before noon! I was surprised and would totally buy a bottle of this! A road trip to Red Wing might be in order. It's a beautiful drive and we have precious little convertible time left in the year.
But enough of this boozing - there is more of the fair to see! And people to see. I know it's cliche, but oh my God, people watching does not get better than this. I mean, I saw a guy wearing a T- shirt that said Certified Asshole. I appreciated the up front notice not to have anything to do with this guy. The shirt doesn't just say it, it proves it. Only an A-hole would wear a shirt like that! Which is to say nothing of the Freaks from Table 9
that Julie and I spotted on our way to the KSTP booth to catch some of my cousin Matt McNeil's
show. This one girl had a face so spotted with red, picked acne that you could easily mistake her for a polka dotted sheet, were she not standing in the middle of the street - picking at her teeth. Her friend had the most malformed face I've ever seen. Really, she had a narrow, long forhead and then the lower part of her skull bulged out wide - like a human butternut squash. I'm certain these two poor souls were more odd looking than anything in the side show.
We spotted them while I was sucking out the last of the juicy corn nibblets from my own teeth. I'm probably not one to point a picky finger. The corn was one of the best things that we had. It was charred and perfectly butter/salty. And it was a veggie. We hadn't had a whole lot of those. I was happy to see the big compost bin right outside of that booth, too. Very cool.
After watching Cousin Matt for a bit - which was weird, by the way. I've known this guy my whole life and he can TALK. Now, he's finally landed the perfect job! I'm happy for him, but standing there watching him converse, but not really being in a conversation with him... it was odd.
Next, more booths, more food. We found our way up to the quilting building, where I'm proud to say that my wildly talented mom-in-law Carol's prize winning chocolate cake was on display. I also wanted to peep the apron retrospective which was not nearly as interesting as I expected it to be. Most of the aprons just looked old. I know that logically, this shouldn't surprise anybody, but it did surprise me.
It was time to go back down the hill and check out the animals. I walked in and admired the pretty bunnies... awwww... bunnies... Then we admired the chickens. Hmmmm... chickens.... They were weird, cute, ugly and occassionally tasty looking. Unfortunately, this is when my eyes began to water. Then, slowly the throat started closing up. I didn't understand. I'm not allergic to bunnies... Buuuhhaaa haa haa shrungcoooooo!!!!! It had started. The marathon sneezing fit kicked in just as we were approaching the sheep nestled into their little hay beds. They don't call it hay fever for nothin'. I was doing my best impression of Cloris Lechman in the Muppet Movie. Matt grabbed me forcibly and walked me out of the barn. He insisted that I would only scare the animals and the children in the barns by remaining.
While blotting my pathetic face and not at all unaware of the stares I was garnering. (Table 9 for the sneezer!) I wheezed in and out until I started to be able to feel moderately human again. I dragged Matt over to the first beer garden I saw. Beer makes everything better. He was having nothing to do with the first place we approached - the one by the Midway with the loud music. Some sad cowboy hat sporting fool was up on stage singing, but the singing seemed to consist of repeating the line, "It's the rule of attraction," over and over again like a Hare Krishna.
We went to the Cowboy Lounge, which I thoroughly enjoyed. They were nice and gave me Summit. Yay! I went through roughly 30 cocktail napkins before I finally started to stop the sneezing and get back to the people watching. People.Are.Facinating.
Julie and Mom were taking so long in the friggin Sneeze Barns that we eventually wandered back into the crowd and got some shrimp and "chips." The chips were actually underdone Ore Ada fries, but the shrimp were shockingly good! They were freshly cooked, the shrimp were tender and super flavorful. I couldn't believe it! They were really, really good! The batter was crispy and just vaguely sweet. I could eat a ton of these! I was about to go back for more when I realized that $14 for 10 shrimp was a bit much - at least for the fair.
We hooked up with them in the first beer garden and that cowboy sportin' goon was still going. At least he had stamina. Now, he was singing Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffet songs that were more crowd appropriate. Mom loved it. At least, I'm assuming she did, because I couldn't hear a word she said, but there was a lot of smiling and some clapping. When Julie had one of our shrimps she decided to go grab some clam strips from the same joint. The line took forever for her to get through, but she liked her strips. I thought that they were a little bit fishy.
At this point, I'm an exhausted, battered, crusted over fair goer. We'd been there, tramping around for hours upon hours. Julie had been attacked by Mothra sized strollers and accousted by sticky fingered, tanteruming children while I'd been sneezing for what seemed to be about two years. Even perky Mum was just about ready to go. Just to make certain that we really, really were done with the fair, we decided to walk through the Midway.
Wow. It's a whole different kind of crazy down there. Carnies, people barking rip off games, gang members hauling their over-stuffed dolls, squirrely teenage boys and overly sexualized little girls. This place is nuts! There's the one Zena/Lara Croft inspired ride with the boobs and flailing arms, the "MTV" booth with Britney when she had her own hair and the whirling, swirrling, snapping, popping, squealing, screaming, catapolting, zooming, crashing, whirring, clicking - AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
They found me staggering towards the line for the Ferris Wheel. This is somewhat astounding because, I hate heights. I am built low and streamlined for a reason. I'm built for comfort, not speed and I do not do heights. I rode Wild Thing at Valley Fair once and Eric still has my finger prints tattoed into his forearms.
But, it was quiet and Mom and Julie had already purchased some disount ride tickets. We had 20, just enough for us all to go on one ride. This seemed appropriate. And it was. Although I was constantly bracing myself and couldn't look directly down, I think I fought of the panic long enough to enjoy the view. The ride eventually stopped with us at the tippy top. I could see all of St. Paul spread out around us. I could see the capital and all the people down on the ground enjoying the fair. I could see families and joy and excitement; anticipation and community. I could see it all and lived to tell the tale.