Lileks: Let’s enjoy some meaningless State Fair stats

August 24, 2018

Heres an insider tip for some local fun this week: Go to the State Fair! Yes, I know, it tends to get lost in the end-of-summer back-to-school shuffle, but its really a lot of fun, and you should give it the ol whirl-and-hurl, as they say on the midway.

Any questions? Happy to help.

Q: Has the fair ever been canceled?

A: Many times. It was canceled in 1918 due to Spanish flu, German pox, Danish droop and the Belgian tremors. It was canceled in 1943 when the war required fats for munitions production, and when it reopened in 1944, posters said, When you eat two corn dogs youre feeding Hitler, just to remind people.

Q: Do they keep track of attendance?

A: My, yes. The lowest attendance was Aug. 27, 1917, on Conscription Day. Thirty-six people showed up. The biggest one-day crowd was on Free Espresso Day on Aug. 29, 1974, when 17 million people passed through the gates. This later was revised downward when it was discovered that the people who counted incoming visitors with handheld clickers had been hammering espresso all day.

Q: Is the fair in Roseville or St. Paul?

A: Neither. Its in Falcon Heights. This is the only time of the year when people who dont live there are even aware of Falcon Heights. (Before the fair, it was known as Buzzard Depths.)

Q: One year, I saw people wearing plastic bags and holding yardsticks. Why was that?

A: Because it was raining and they may have needed to measure something. Actually, once upon a time you saw a lot of people with yardsticks, which were given away so joyously that you had to take one. People walked around looking as if theyd just finished eating a corn dog the size of a hotel bed bolster.

You dont see free yardsticks as much as you did before, but if you want to drive someone crazy, bring a yardstick to the fair so people think theyre still plentiful. If someone asks where you got it, say Machinery Hill, the former name for an area that is completely flat.

Really, when you think about it, going to Machinery Hill in Falcon Heights sounds like you should bring bottled oxygen and Sherpas.

Q: Whats new this year?

A: All the rides are the same except they go in the opposite direction. The ice cream that sounds bizarre but is actually delicious is Choco Tater Tot With Zwieback. The new must-try food is Mustrei, a Swedish sausage made from spiced, minced Ikea manuals.

Otherwise, everything is just where you left it. See you there!

james.lileks@startribune.com 612-673-7858 Twitter: @Lileks facebook.com/james.lileks

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