It’s OK to love the State Fair


Apologies for not having a 5×8 for you this morning but I got home too late from the Minnesota State Fair last night, got up too late this morning, and I have no clue what’s going on in the world, anyway. It’s hard to write about the news when you’re isolated at the fairgrounds, and if I had my way, this would be day two of 11 days in news solitary.

I don’t walk around the fairgrounds much. I stay in one location — pushing the merchandise and T-shirts at the MPR booth. The fair comes to me, so do the people who listen to Minnesota Public Radio, or — though not anywhere near frequently enough for my ego — read this blog or listen to the 4:20 gig I do on The Current.

The fair offers a chance to see the state of Minnesota walk right past you in all its weird, wonderful, occasionally freaky and frightening color. Working the MPR booth provides the same experience and it’s a great reminder of how varied my organization is once we get out of our cubicles.

Take yesterday, for instance. The MPR News crew took over the stage in the morning when Daily Circuit hosted Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who reported that the State Fair Doughnut Flavored Beer is actually beer with powdered sugar on the rim of the glass. “It’s basically a Minnesota margarita,” she reported, before moving on to less weighty subjects like Congress.

Then the MPR Classical side took it and — in addition to other entertainment — gave us the chance to listen to the Minnesota Boychoir.

I’ve lived here for 22 years. My neighbor’s son was in the Minnesota Boychoir. You know how many times I’ve seen the Minnesota Boychoir? Once. Yesterday. Look at those kids — that’s the generation we dismiss as video game playing lugs.

After the Classical folks gave up the stage, The Current took over. The best part about the Fair is when the tide of The Current fans mixes with the departing — or not — Classical service fans. It’s as if a little piece of Minnesota is meeting another little piece.

Mary Lucia provided a live broadcast with Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles. Guess how many times I’ve seen Lucy Michelle perform. Once. Yesterday.

I watched my colleagues — the audio engineers — work for more than an hour to set up for that performance and make sure that it sounded just right. They’re the people at MPR you never see, but you hear their work every day.

Throughout the day, a stream of people stopped by to chat. This is Art Walsh, who wanted to tell me that he’s not a big fan of The Takeaway, the show that replaced the canceled Talk of the Nation. He’s also a judge in the Minnesota wine competition and reports that over the last few years, nothing has stood out, not like the mint wine that someone made several years ago.


Art just finished a 47-year career as an attorney. But I noticed something else; he had a great, classic radio voice. And, indeed, it turned out he once worked at one of Iowa’s two 50,000 watt radio stations. But radio didn’t pay well (insert obvious comment here) and so he became a lawyer. You may recognize his voice from KBEM inserts. His passion is still radio. Lesson: Chase your passion.

A woman from southern Minnesota stopped to thank us for coverage of mental health issues. She’s a social worker in a school system. “In the last two years, things have gotten better,” she said about school responsiveness to such issues. There’s a pick-me-up we don’t hear often enough: “things are getting better.”

I had a number of people stop by to tell me how much they enjoy the blog and I appreciate that. An unusual number of women asked if they could take their picture with me. “It’s for my husband,” they’d add. OK.

Caitlin Vanasse is stuck at George Washington University in D.C., getting all smarter and all. She misses the fair but gave her brother, Ryan, explicit instructions.


Mission accomplished!


I don’t even have to look at the paper, listen to the radio, or read a website. I know today that someone in Syria is being gassed, the Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota are throwing spitballs at each other and driving a wedge between us, the Asian Carp are swimming this way, and the Twins are losing another game.

Maybe I should feel bad for putting that all aside for 11 days to celebrate kids who sing, mandolin players who pick, attorneys who hate what’s on the radio, people who help make things better for kids in school, people far away who wish they were here, the people in the audience who smile in appreciation or plug their ears to lessen the noise, and my own organization that works like crazy to take a daily snapshot of all of it — good and bad.

My state is a great state. My organization is a great organization. Our audience is a great audience.