The Benton county fair just wrapped up here in St. Cloud (St. Cloud is distributed over 3 counties – Benton county gets the fair). I tried, to no avail, to get Nate to go so I could at least get some mini donuts. Mmm, hot, sugary, greasy mini donuts.
Going to the mower county fair every year growing up was something I looked forward to every summer. Sure, it meant that august had arrived and dreaded school would be starting again, but the anticipation of the fair overcame my fear of starting school.
We would go on Saturday, and the anticipation of that day was almost more than I could stand. Tuesday…Wednesday…. Thursday…Friday………..then finally, Saturday!
My family would leave around suppertime, drive to the opposite side of town, and park on the street or in the large parking lot to the side of the fair.
The mower county fairgrounds are large (or they were until the age of 13. I haven’t been there since then, so I’m not sure how much they’ve shrunk). There is a huge grandstand, tons of barns, many buildings that stayed up year round. A 12-foot-high white fence enclosed all this. So as I walked toward the fair, I could hear the sounds of the rides, the carnies yelling for players, I could smell the frying grease and sugar, and worst of all, I could just see the top of the ferris wheel. That fence kept the anticipation mounting.
Finally, we reached the gates to the fair and finally our eyes could feast upon the fair goodness. There was a long aisle of nothing but color, sparkles, and lights. The first stop was always the DNR building where we looked at the animals and fish, while my dad chatted to the caretaker. Of course we were very antsy to get moving by this time, but he still talked and talked.
The next stop was the KofC building where we ate supper: greasy burgers and fries. To get there, we had to sadly walk past all the tempting carnies selling their wares: batons that had glitter water in them, or large colorful hats. No, we would have none of that, said our mother. We also had to walk past the entrance to the midway, where the rides would call to us, the tempting music of the rides. But we knew as soon as we ate supper, we could run to that entrance and finally fulfill what we’d been waiting for the whole summer.
One of the only perks of living in southern Minnesota during fair time is that the sun goes down quite a bit sooner than expected. It was normal that by the time we were finished in the DNR hut and with supper, the sun would be close to setting, which made the midway even more spectacular with its colorful lights lighting up the night sky. My siblings and I would practically hop with anticipation as my parents found a ticket booth. Once purchased, the tickets were divided, and the first ride was always the merry-go-round. No matter how old you were, no matter what, we rode the merry-go-round first.
Then it was a whirlwind of a night, as we went on the ferris wheel, walked down the aisle of carnies wanting us to spend a dollar to pop a balloon or pick a duck. We picked our way through people to enter the fun house or ride on the zipper.
Finally, after begging our parents for more money to buy more tickets to go on more rides, and them adamantly refusing, it was time to go.
It was always a long walk back to the gates, past the glitter batons and turquoise necklaces and big hats that I couldn’t have. But, there was always one last stop before we left the grounds.
My mom loooooves mini-donuts. And we would always stop there before leaving the fair behind for one more year. We watched as the mini-donut turner flipped the little pastries along their journey through grease, as the man scooped them up, piping hot, into the white bag, drizzle sugar and cinnamon into the bag and shake it. Then we would each get our own bag of donuts. Under the bug-infested blinking yellow lights of the mini-donut cart, we bit into our donuts, and they melted in our mouths, a wonderful mix of hot sugar and grease.
We savored them as we walked back to the car and on the drive home, sated and sad at the same time. Once in a while, someone would have some left for the next day, trying to extend the fair one more day, but they were never quite as good as that first bite at the fair. Mmmm mini-donuts.