Stories on a stick



Do you have State Fair withdrawal yet? Today I was treating the symptoms by going through the hundreds of images of people who had their picture taken at the MPR State Fair booth, recalling the stories of some of those I talked to, while sorting through the scraps of paper on which I wrote down their names and factoids about their lives.

Both of these pictures were taken on Friday. One of the women shown — the problem is I can’t remember exactly which, so I put both possibilities here — is Suzanne Robin of Bloomington.

Other than those things necessary to live, name one thing you’ve done every year for 50 years. For 50 years — every year — Suzanne has come to the Minnesota State Fair. She started when she was 5, and she hasn’t missed a year.

She’s a city kid — from St. Paul — which made her an exotic species to the “farm kids” back in the day. She was the guest of honor at several night-time (after hours) parties put on the 4-H kids.

Several years ago,on her 40th birthday, she was on the bus to the fair when she noticed Jesse Ventura’s entourage parked its limousine at a park-and-ride and stuck the governor on the bus so he could look like an average person.

“Thanks for coming to my 40th birthday party,” she told the governor, who was too narcissistic to understand anything in life that didn’t directly relate to Jesse Ventura.

“I’m here to do my radio show,” the governor growled, before his smarter-than-he-was aides recognized that the moment belonged to a Minnesotan on her 40th birthday.

I think Suzanne is the top picture and, if so, the bottom picture is worth noting, too. You know how you know when two people fit together well? When one instinctively keeps the hair out of the other’s eyes. You want love? That’s love.

I wrote the other day that an overarching theme behind the stories of many people I talked to at the fair was the job they lost. As the week went along, however, I found another: People chasing — sometimes in a small way; sometimes not — what their heart tells them to chase.

There was, for example, the architect from Canada who had a dream of being a stand-up comedian. I brought him over to the stage at the MPR fair booth and suggested he practice and I’d be his audience. It turns out, though, that he’s afraid of standing up before people. He’ll never be a stand-up comedian; he’ll always have his dream, however.

Even more common was the number of people who have moved to Minnesota or from Minnesota for the same reason. “To be near the grandchildren,” was the most common answer. At this time of year — campaign season — we try to come up with a mathematical formula for what makes our great state great. Tax rates, unemployment numbers etc. Politicians spend millions convincing you that our lives are a struggle almost too awful to bear without them. More often, however, what makes Minnesota great is it’s where the people we love most live.

And it’s a pretty good place to chase a dream.

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