Nowadays when I hear state fair, I think rickety rides, krusty pups (or pronto pups from my home state), and cheap souvenirs. Except for a few of the small family-run food stands, it can all feel quite commercial.
I have trouble finding my inner fair enthusiast. I don’t really want to buy anything, I’m not interested in the rides, and I try to stay as far away from the food as I can. Despite these initial feelings, I somehow seem to walk away from the event a happy girl.
When I was growing up, I was a Minnesota 4-Her. No, I did not show cows or wear a big belt buckle. I did live on a farm, but my interests expanded well beyond animals and agriculture. I baked, a lot – confetti cupcakes, corn muffins, and chocolate chip cookies. I sewed – tank tops, dresses, and skirts. I built circuits, dabbled in arts and crafts, and grew flowers for beautiful arrangements. I won a blue ribbon for demonstrating how to make my grandma’s home made noodles and I spread the 4-H word during my term as a Minnesota State 4-H Ambassador.
I often take for granted the ways these experiences have shaped my life, but I always seem to rediscover the memories at the Puyallup Fair. Last weekend, my husband, his mom, and I braved the heat and walked through the gates. We headed straight to the hobby hall in search of cooler air, but what we really found were giant pumpkins, home brewed beer, exquisite heirloom tomatoes, and wall-sized murals made with the bounty of Washington state granges.
After the hobby hall, we wandered into the fair museum. I was enthralled with black and white, aged photographs of grange displays from years past. I stared for what felt like hours at the memories, the artifacts – an old Sunbeam mixer, antique potato mashers, and a magic egg cleaner.
After I pulled myself from the museum, we walked diagonally across the fairgrounds to the 4-H building. We perused blue ribbon photographs, grand champion root vegetables, and watched as young 4-Hers scurried to get ready for the four o’clock fashion revue.
I was reminded of the ribbons I won, the lessons I learned, the friends I made, and the passion I felt every year at the Minnesota State Fair.