The Fair is ingrained in my DNA. It's always been a part of my family history; the first time my mother left me, a 2-week old infant, was to go to the Fair (and I'll bet that pronto pup, without baby responsibilities, was amazing!). When I was young, my mom and I used to go first thing in the morning — we would have a donut and coffee for breakfast in a little booth that was just outside the doors to the Coliseum, and watch the horses exercise and practice of the door was cracked open. We would linger through the barns, check out the Midway, walk through each building, see the parade, eat pronto pups and malts and mini donuts (always from the booth by the Grandstand) and cheese curds, ride the Big Slide, sit on the grass and people watch. When evening came, we would visit our relatives Bonnie and Logan (Logan sat on the board, and they lived on the fairgrounds during the fair each year), and then they would take us to whatever concert was occurring that night at the Grandstand and we would sit in their box. Afterwards, we would sleepily ride the Skyride back to the gate.
My fair attendance has varied a little over the years. As a child and then a teenager, I would go with my mom and then also with friends another day. As I grew older, sometimes I was not even in town for it (sacrilege!). Since I met Patrick, we've gone every year for varying lengths of time, and of course the last eight years have included Beatrix. We have pictures of her every year, from a baby staring in wonder at the horses, to a toddler in the barns, to a young lady going on her first big-kid ride, to an elementary school-aged child with a wide range of interests.
So much of the Fair is the same, and so much is different. When I was a child, there was not the Miracle of Birth barn, or even Sweet Martha' cookies. Rides change (and get safer, it seems like when I was young one would break down dramatically every year, leaving people suspended in mid-air), there's no "freak show" section of the Midway anymore, and people I know now win Creative Arts prizes (how did we get so old?)
This year, in particular, Beatrix was a trooper. She won us tickets through the library reading program, and generous friends gave us a barely-used coupon book and some ride tickets. We ended up spending 11 hours there, from 9-5, then back home for a brief break, then back from 7-10. It's amazing to see things through her eyes — she still loves Little Farm Hands, and pretty much everything in the Eco Building, but this year she really enjoyed ALL the exhibits (was crazy about the Education Building, and the Grandstand, and the Creative Arts, and Horticulture) — and her hands-down favorite was the Stunt Dog Show. We saw piglets that were just a few hours old (and had to jeep going back to the barn to see if the cow had given birth), we agreed the parade was fun but no Mardi Gras, we walked through the Midway and enjoyed all the lights (even if she sagely commented that the games were likely not as easy as they looked). We missed the llama costume contest because the app had the wrong time, but we did see some of the horse judging. The jazz band at Cafe Caribe was way too loud, but the salsa band at the International Marketplace (which will likely forever be the Mexican Village in my mind) was just right. She loved seeing the Hilary signs at the DFL booth, and we all tested the saunas (we really need a sauna!). And late at night, as we were getting ready to leave, we listed to Demi Lovato and ate Sweet Martha's cookies (my first ever!) outside the Grandstand, then headed to the busses while watching them light up the fireworks in the field.
I love the Fair, and I love that my daughter loves the Fair, and somewhere out there I hope my mother still loves it too. Happy 78th birthday (yesterday), mom.