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Judy Spooner: Still time for a day at the fair

I was standing in a street with gutters filled with cigarette butts. The street was freckled with squished chocolate chip cookie from Sweet Martha's. They fill the plastic buckets so full that cookies frequently fall out.

A woman passing by pleaded with me, and daughter Margie, to help her eat the cookies piled on top so she could put the lid on the bucket.

It was hot and humid and I could hear the sounds of the Midway and the screams of people flying high in the sky on what are essentially big bungee cords.

There were thousands of people passing by.

After happily consuming the cookie, husband Gary handed me a freshly fried Pronto Pup that I covered in mustard.

It was heavenly! There is no experience like it. I know you can buy frozen corn dogs and even make them from scratch. I ate one at the Washington County Fair, but it wasn't the same.

Only once a year can I duplicate the sublime experience of eating a Pronto Pup at the Minnesota State Fair.

Because of polio epidemics in the '50s, my parents wouldn't take me to the fair.

But when I was 13 years old, the epidemic had waned and my parents relented and let me work as a waitress at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church restaurant in the 4-H building.

On each of the 10 days of the fair, before it was extended to 12 days, I rode a bus to the fair with a fresh apron my mother ironed for me to wear.

At the end of each day, I was very tired and told myself that I wouldn't go back the next day. But waking refreshed, I returned.

At 6 a.m. in the morning, the fair is magical place as vendors begin to open for the day. Street cleaners are finishing up their work and steam rises from the pavement as the temperature increases.

Watching the people was fascinating to me and still is.

If you agree with me that men wearing dark socks and shoes they wear to church with shorts is a major fashion violation, you can find, hands down, more of this behavior at the state fair than anywhere else.

Families with strollers are abundant. Strollers are so elaborate and large that they become baby and toddler assault vehicles as people muscle their way through exhibits and streets.

Take note that, most of the time, parents are carrying their children and filling their assault vehicles with food, free stuff and one-of-a-kind new floor mops that were sold to them as the cutting edge of modern floor cleaning.

Everywhere, people are eating under conditions they would not tolerate anywhere else. It seems the enjoyment of the fresh-cut skin-on French fries are enhanced by the crowds and the dirt from bare spots amid trampled down grass.

Standing in line to get a Fudge Puppy or strolling through the Food Building, at temperatures near 100 degrees, is not only tolerable, it's welcomed.

For the time you're at the fair, time is suspended and the real world is on hold.

I can't wait until next year.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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