On September 2, 1901, while visiting the Minnesota State Fair,
Vice President Teddy Roosevelt uttered these famous words:
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
In a preview of his upcoming administration,
Teddy wasn’t foolin’ when he whipped out that little gem,
but what an effect his words would have on future fair-goers. . .
Barb pays tribute to T.R.’s ideology.
* * *
From cool cats in the Fine Arts Building…
to cool cats cropped in the Ag Building
from Oat Couture
to the pleasures of the hand-crafted
For her artful exhibit on F.W. Woolworth’s,
Firenze nabbed a first place ribbon
For this unnerving over-achiever
not a surprising feat…
That’s why the chrome and linen hit the fan
when Firenze’s Mesabi mining exhibit
was slapped with a shocking 4th place finish
Fortunately a second place ribbon for her work
on Glass House diners somewhat appeased Ms. F
But not since Brando’s infamous rejection of his Oscar
for his role as The Godfather has such a kerfluffle
shaken the world of judging malfeasance,
enough to keep ’em awake at night. . .
and constantly checking their horse’s stables.. .
I’m just sayin’. . .
And don’t think this post is glamorizing
cut-throat competitions, or foodstuff on a stick, oh no,
cause the Fair offers deeper, obliquer insights, my friend.
If you’ve never attended Minnesota’s get-together
because you have a classic case of demophobia,
I should point out a few things.
No crowd control has been necessary since
the infamous Cheese Curd Riot of 1874.
Most understand the Fair is not just a fair…
It’s an allegorical carnival of choices
on all the sensory options life lobs our way
It’s the Heisenberg Principle
Maybe you prefer to wander
the Fair with no particular plan…
using the Beer Garden as a point of reference
Or maybe you’re a Magellan type who prefers
charting your course by the Daily Events calendar.
Either way, when Captain Jack Sparrow comes sailing by
unannounced in one of those random parades,
that’s just serendipity
At the same time, spontaneity brings great risk –
you might’ve totally missed the llamas
cause they’re only scheduled for two days
and you totally forgot to google their show dates!
Other fairgoers are much more
relaxed about their visit…
Either way, why would anyone
knowingly, willingly, miss this mug?
Oh sure, there are plenty of outright Fair haters out there,
not to mention the legion of allergy sufferers,
but there are just as many desperate to get in…
And if you think you’re just a lemming among a crowd…
well, can’t argue with you there…
yet scientists affirm we’re cosmically connected
each of us as unique as stars or snowflakes…
Some channeling the very universe itself
Why alpacas are buzz-cut to look like a cross between
an Amish elder and sheared poodle, I’m not sure.
This was the first year the Wild West’s little rescue dogs
performed derring-do’s with singular bravery.
Sweet Martha’s bucket of cookies are always
super-sized, teeter-tottering precariously.
Rarely is the customer consulted,
“Would you like a side of insulin with that?”
And in the Ironic Cake Decorating category, the winner is . . .
Beating siblings to siesta time.
To sleep, perchance to dream
Unexpected magical moments occur,
like when you twirl and find yourself nose to eye
with an unbelievable sapphire-eyed creature…
witness the apocalyptically deep-fried Oreos –
because the original hydrogenated recipe wasn’t enough!
The Owl gazes through us,
our dulled and over-pampered brain,
forged from our ancestors’ snafus
Never mind how undeserving, unwashed, gauche we may be,
our domesticated friends unconditionally adore us
The Talent Competition was strange this year.
By some Jedi mind trick, the contestant who won in the adult category
compelled the Judges to allow him to re-do his painful screechy guitar act.
All because of some audio issue that no one noticed in the first place!
Orange boy moseys off to the left. . .
. . . and to the right
Where else are you actively encouraged to touch
warm newborns, cleaner-than-spit farm animals, and
simultaneously offered a clean-up station to scrub your mitts…
The Fair excels at showcasing
new musical talents on the “free stages”
You never know who might be playing.
Before the final Talent Competition at the Grandstand,
Irene and I were hoofing it back to the Food Building
to indulge in one of those tasty San Felipe fish tacos
when a rich, bluesy voice pierced the cacophony of noise
stopping us in our tracks…
. . . It was a Susan Tedeschi tune blasting over a speaker,
but when we looked around, expecting a D.J. with a CD,
we saw a live singer and band performing on Dino’s Gyro’s tiny stage.
The owner of the voice, Ali Washington,
went on to perform “Sweet Thing” by Chaka Khan,
some irresitable Jackson 5 tunes, and a host of other fun covers.
Any performer who inspires a pre-pubescent boy
to drag his best friend from a crowd to the front
of a stage to dance in that uninhibited, bone-less,
joyfully gawky, free-form way,
possesses some powerful alchemy, I tell you what.
Outside the DNR Building, a respectful silence
settled among the corn and beef-fed crowd,
as magnificent feathered representatives paraded by.
We met this rescued little screech owl
before its public appearance. Sweet!
All of the birds were so professional.
…I truly suck at identifying bird species
The Falconer at the Fair
By the end of the Falconer’s rap on raptors,
no matter what your political persuasion,
you believed humans should be responsible
but unapologetic meat eaters, that vultures
were the waste management wonders of nature,
taking care of carcasses like nobody’s business;
and finally, you experienced an irresistible urge
to invest in raptor tschochkes to support this
noble, all-volunteer, non-profit organization.
* * *
At the Pet Center. . .awaiting the doggie obstacle course. . .
Snacktime before the event found
Steve showcasing his battered pork sandwich,
while Barb delicately demolished her foot-long corn dog.
The airborne Rocket Dogs
* * *
During a guacamole contest at the Tejas food stand,
Guest-celebrity chef Chad Greenway, a Vikings linebacker,
mashed avocados as if his career depended on it. . .
Such grit, such competitive spirit,
imagine if the Vikes played with such zeal. . .
On behalf of long-suffering, purple-faced fans everywhere,
I unkindly bitch slap Chad in lieu of the entire Vikings organization
but not before mugging for a photo and
securing an autograph for Josh first….
Barb helpfully pointed out abstract art on the ground
Steve was seriously packing at near-Sherpa level.
Funky 4-H Boy and his Llama
Other than T.R.’s appearance in 1901,
no known tornadic episodes
have been recorded in Fair history.
During the Raptor demonstration,
after one of the hawks flew over our heads,
I turned and saw this kid with a feather on his head
Oh cool ! I exclaimed. Can I take his pic?
Sure, said Dad, before noting, “He actually just had that weaved in there…”
To coin Sari’s favorite “1910” expression, classic egg-on-my-face moment.
In a culture where nothing is immune from batter and boiling oil, meat is sacred, and Spam is the pinnacle of creative cuisine, a new category was added in the State Fair’s cooking competitions – the Vegan Main Entree. Like David going up against Goliath, the ubiquitous Florence convinced fair organizers to add this new cooking category.
The idea that a vegan entry could ever get a toehold, let alone a foothold, among the Midwest’s meaty, greasy atmosphere, is sort of a small miracle.
Firenze not only convinced organizers to add the new category, but also offered the winning prize – a copy of the newly-published “The Vegan Table.” After I explained the odds of winning were greater in this first-year category, H and Irene agreed to enter the competition, especially after hearing Florence was recusing herself !
A week before the Fair opened, thirteen meat-less souls carted their vegan entries onto the grounds. H and I guessed Irene’s Thai Peanut Tofu was most-likely-to-succeed, but H’s Lasagna Pinwheels were nothing to sneeze at ! As for my Tofu Broccoli Surprise, in my zest to crush the competition I kept tossing in extra ingredients to boost the flavor, which eventually snuffed out any individual flavors altogether. Surprise!
In the end, Irene excitingly snagged a ribbon with her Thai Tofu – just squeaking into dubious 4th place! H’s pinwheels may not have placed, but she did cook up some inventive blue streak cussing during her project, reaching her apex over the unmeltable soy cheese.
However the entries looked, a week later, after being nuked and picked over by the judges, surrounded by scrumptious cakes and pies, this is what the public saw:
Irene’s pink-ribbon achievement,
once an attractive, tasty Thai Tofu dish,
now an amalgam of Jabba the Hut
with a lone peanut sunk in on its landscape…
So a moment of glory explodes in a single display-case viewing…
Hopefully not irrepairably damaging veganism’s image
Until next year – Hasta la vista
Not only did she raise awareness on the plight of factory farm-raised animals,
but by promoting a radical idea, Firenze expanded a Midwest tradition,
encouraged subversive cooking contests, and possibly
revolutionized some smitten kitchen homefronts…
Teddy, a great hunter,
but an even greater preservationist,
would’ve been proud. . .
And I’m sure would have rewarded F
with a symbolic ribbon on a stick. . .
* * *
Right after his turkey shoot