I went to my first Minnesota State Fair this past Saturday. Actually, it was my first state fair from any state. I have lived in 5 different states, and 8 different cities, and this is my first time to ever attend a state fair. And I guess I picked the right one to go to for my first experience. The Minnesota State Fair is the 2nd largest in the country. And if the information booth attendants that I talked to are correct, then it is only a matter of time before we move to the top of the list. Of course, they may be a little biased.
Last year the Fair set a record with about 1.8 million people in attendance. The daily attendance averages around the 150-200,000 range. I find that staggering. I also find it incredible that the fair has been around for 150 years. A lady I know has gone to the fair every year of her 47 year old life. My wife’s parents had their first date at the Minnesota State Fair. And we have relatives that travel up each year from Chicago just to come to the fair for the weekend. I guess it is kind of a big deal!
Anyway, I thought I would share with you a little bit of my thoughts on the fair itself. We arrived at the fairgrounds at about 8:15 a.m. Which is a great time to go by the way. The crowd was very thin at that time and the temperature was perfect with a nice breeze to keep us cool. This made it much more enjoyable to leisurely stroll through the grounds and enjoy the sites and sounds. By the time we left at 2 p.m. we were encased in a sea of people and the sun and humidity combined to make the stroll much less enjoyable.
So if you can handle the crowd, there is a lot to enjoy at the fair including: Minnesota’s largest pig, a wall filled with beautiful artwork done completely in seeds, a great international bazzaar with several unique booths, parades, star-studded shows, machinery hill, crazy contests, magic, music, education, agriculture, animals, rides, games, and of course more food than you could possibly ever eat.
And speaking of food, after seeing miles of booths, hanging out with more animals than were on the ark (okay maybe not quite that many), and wading through some of the biggest crowds I have ever seen; the thing that stuck out to me more than anything else was all the different foods you can put on a stick.
If you go to the Minnesota State Fair website you can use the foodfinder to scroll through the information on all 316 food vendors that have booths at the fair. When you do, you will find typical iconic fair foods like the corn dog, walking tacos, gyros, footlong hot dogs, and mini-donuts. You will also find unique and interesting gastronomic delights such as beignets, spamburgers, sticky bun burritos, texas tator dogs, and the pot roast sundae which is a scoop of mashed potatoes, roast beef, gravy, corn, and a cherry tomato. But the most mind-numbing fad at the fair is the way that each vendor is trying to outdo everyone else in what flavors they can manage to fit on a stick. This year’s offerings include: chocolate watermelon, macaroni n’ cheese, deep fried tator tots, cajun seasonsed alligator sausage, big fat bacon, ostrich, deep fried candy bars, pork cheeks, salmon, lobster, porcupine meatballs, sliced ice cream on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts, stuffed grape leaves, camel, deep fried bologna, hot dish (that’s right hot dish on a stick), deep fried smores, spaghetti and meatballs, dill pickles, mashed potatoes, and of course, Fudge Puppies (a Belgium waffle on-a-stick dipped in chocolate and topped with choices of whipped topping, crunch coating or strawberries).
As far as the eye can see at the fair there are people walking around eating food on a stick. Now, I understand the concept behind this fad. It makes sense that you want to give people food that is mobile so that they can buy it and eat it while they walk. But if that is true, can you explain to me why we need things like pizza, olives, and dill pickles to be on a stick? Aren’t those foods already falling into the walking around category before you attempt to put them on a stick? And while we are on the subject, does anyone really need a deep-fried candybar? And how in the world do you put spaghetti and meatballs, or mashed potatoes on a stick? And why do we need to?
I know it is all for fun and when you go to the fair, the outrageous and the extravagant foods are part of the attraction, but we also need to learn restraint. One of the problems we face as a society is that we do things just because we can. We struggle with restraint. I will be talking this Sunday about the fruit of the Spirit. Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Self-control isn’t easy, but God wants us to be able to exercise restraint. We need to know when to say “when.”
So enjoy the fair, have fun, but also let the extravagance of the fair remind you of this lesson. We don’t just do things just because we can. At some point we need to learn to say, “when.”