The state fair

“When was the last time we came here together?” seventeen-year-old Flicka said as we passed through the entrance to the Minnesota State Fair.

I shrugged. “Well, we had the double stroller, so it’s been a while.”

No stroller this time. We would cover the place with three teenagers who could walk on their own. Who knew the state fair could be this easy?

At the girls’ request, we frittered away time in the livestock barns, shuddering at the largest boar who was slabbed out in his stall looking more like a three-quarter ton rock than an animal. We oohed at the cows who cuddled with their owners while they awaited their show times. We aahed at the sheep and goats who often shoved their heads through the bars to get a scratch behind the ears just like our own creature at home.

We floated through the agriculture building and the global market, the art exhibits and the butterfly room. We breezed through the gathering of humanity like we were riding a bike on a freshly tarred road, unlike the baby days when it seemed we were rollerblading through sand. And we ate many goodies: walleye cakes, fried pickles, multi-flavored cheese curds, poutine, honey ice cream, chocolate chip cookies. No sugar-induced meltdowns this time.

But as we sauntered by food offerings too numerous to conquer in a day, one particular aroma wafted me back to another time.

I was twenty years old again and drifting through the state fair with Boyfriend. We had managed to pay the entrance fee, but we were college students on a suffocating budget. Once inside the gates, we were strapped. Not even a dollar between us.

“That roasted corn sure smells good,” Boyfriend said.

“The best,” I said, eyeing the charred husks and the butter dripping off a patron’s chin after she chomped from a fresh cob.

“Maybe next time.”

But I had an idea. “Or this time.”

I shared my plan, and we strolled the fair with new purpose, our eyes trained on the ground. We most often found pennies, but went ecstatic when we spied silver.

“A dime,” Boyfriend said, his face splitting into a grin. “Lucky break.”

For an hour we were as alert as a dog hanging out under a dinner table. We scoured pay phone change slots. Then the mother of all ideas sparked: the arcade. Why hadn’t we thought of it before? We entered the house of games and searched every coin return.

I was breathless. “Three quarters!”

Finally we had what we needed for one cob. We scurried to the corn stand and dumped our fistful of change into a worker’s hand. We took our first bites. Now our chins were slick with butter. We sighed; roasted corn had never tasted more delicious.

Hardship probably creates the best memories. But visiting the state fair with a few easy teenagers and enough money for a cob of corn is okay too.

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.