Deep-fried foods and good walking shoes

I was probably 8 years old when I went to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time. My two older brothers had earned 4-H trips to show chickens, and the whole family went up there to see what this “Great Minnesota Get-Together” was all about.

Well, a few years later, I earned my first trip to the state fair as a 4-H’er. For the next six or seven years, it became an annual tradition, thanks to my purple-ribbon-winning dairy goats and, one year, champion bronze turkeys.

Back then, the livestock encampment was Labor Day weekend. There was no concern about missing school – just excitement in getting to experience everything the state fair has to offer. It’s too bad today’s 4-H’ers have to decline state fair livestock trips because of the pre-Labor Day start to school, but that’s a topic for another day.

In little more than a week, I’ll be making my way up to the Minnesota State Fair once again. While I’ll spend half my day in meetings as a member of the statewide Citizens Advisory Committee for University of Minnesota Extension, the other half will be spent roaming around the fairgrounds, taking in all there is to see.

As a veteran state fair-goer, I have my must-see sites – the 4-H and nearby Creative Activities buildings topping the list. The Horticulture and Foods buildings are also favorites, and I have to make at least one trek around the Coliseum to see what must-have products the vendors are hawking.

Along the way, I’ll visit the DNR building to see the fish and the Wall of Shame (confiscated deer taken out of season); and try to weave my way through the crowds at the Miracle of Birth Center to see all of the cute baby farm animals.

Even our must-have foods remain the same from year to year. My mom has to have a foot-long hotdog with the works, and we always share an order of Mouth Trap Cheese Curds from the Foods building.

While you can find plenty of food-on-a-stick options, I noticed several new “deep fried” entries in the offering this year, among them deep-fried olives, deep-fried bread pudding and wine-glazed deep-fried meatloaf.

If deep-fried food isn’t for you, there’s always the mini donut batter crunch ice cream. Well, maybe not. How about lobster macaroni and cheese? A peanut butter and jelly malt?

The one new food option that gave me an instant stomach ache just reading the description — fried pickles ’n chocolate (deep fried pickles dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of chocolate dipping sauce.)

Whether you go to see the exhibits, sample the food — or to watch the reactions of people who dare to try things like fried pickles ’n chocolate — it just isn’t summer without a trip to the Minnesota State Fair.

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