Pretty much every Minnesotan I’ve met for the past two years has urged me to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and this Labour Day weekend I finally experienced it for myself with Randi, Simon and Steve. And it was amazing!
But first: Simon and Steve arrived in Chicago after some extensive road/plane/train-tripping across the United States already, so we had a couple of days to relax and introduce them to important Chicago institutions such as Kuma’s Corner and the Cubs. (In their game against the Pirates, which we saw with Todd and Carolyn, the Cubs were thoughtful enough to throw in some unnecessary drama at the end where it looked like they might squander the whole game’s lead, but they ultimately triumphed in order that Simon and Steve could hear the victory song.)
For the first time in too long we also saw Improv Shakespeare, who rejected our suggestion of ‘President Trump’ (wise) and performed The Coughing Lumberjack instead: a worthy saga combining the industrious Don Lumberjack and a dastardly French invasion of England.
And then it was roadtrip time! Highlights of our journey included a ferociously weird Spotify playlist (I Feel Like Jeremy Corbyn became the trip’s anthem, which you can Google if you must) and multiple stops at Culver’s. By Friday night we reached our hotel in Madison – a popular town if my friends are anything to go by – and spent Saturday morning exploring the farmers’ market and/or arguing with creationists (Simon and Steve took one for the team here) before moving on.
On Saturday evening we arrived into Minneapolis, ate some non-fried non-American food and shared some beers with Catherine while we prepared ourselves for Sunday. Fair Day. There’s so much I could write about the fair itself because it’s so vast: we arrived at 9.30am and left eleven hours later, and not once did we get bored or run out of things to do. To start with, there is so much food: most notable (for us) were the incredible cheese curds, the famous cookies from Sweet Martha’s Cookies Jar and some delicious corn on the cob. There are fairground rides, political stalls, a host of farm animals (some within the ‘Miracle of Birth’ tent) and an art gallery. We saw the finalists of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest carved out of butter, rode the cable car over the fair and and the Ye Old Mill canal boat through pitch black tunnels underneath, cheered on a lumberjack competition and admired many, many tractors.
In short, it was wonderful. Apart from the GOP’s Trump tent. Which was less wonderful.
There were a couple of other pre-fair events back in Chicago which I should mention. I went to a very compelling one-day course from Edward Tufte: nominally on data presentation, but he has the moral authority and professorial gravitas to talk about whatever he wants and make it compelling (plus he’s friends with Randall Munroe from xkcd). I made use of both Jason’s pool and the wonderful, free public pool in Pulaski Park before the summer ends. And we had a three-way dinner date with Robert, Grace, Luis and Marti before seeing The 7th Annual Living Newspaper Festival: a collection of topical short plays inspired by newspaper stories. (The most enjoyable was set in a robotised future classroom in a Trumpian dystopia. Election day draws ever nearer.)
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