I'm a pretty big lover of the MN State Fair but I also struggle with the very real issue of the build-up and anticipation being almost always the best part of the experience. Walking through the fairground entrance at 9:00 am, now THAT is my favorite part of the fair. A little bit of a morning nip is still in the air, the crowds are thin, there's that delectable aroma of pronto pups and mini donuts wafting in the slight breeze, and a noticeable buzz of energy. THAT's the part I love. Unfortunately, a few hours later we usually find ourselves on the other side of the fairgrounds, by the dreaded Midway and the smelly barns, sweaty, dirty, dusty, tired, crabby, puffy, hungry while at the same time overwhelmed as to what we should eat, and at this point super annoyed with the constant corralling of our own small children and the multiple other family members we are with amidst insane crowds of people.
After this year, I am kind of thinking that if we're going to bring the kids, maybe we should just go on our own without my parents and brother and his family. And it's not as if they were at all annoying or bad company or anything like that, but it's just too many people's needs and desires and appetites to manage and worry about in such a huge overwhelming place. Throw into the mix two nursing babies and the complications that arise when there are such varied interests in one group... the logistics become annoying. Texts like, "We're headed to X spot, we'll meet you there in a half hour, and if we're not there, we'll head to X after that..." were shared back and forth. Harried conversations consisting of:
"What do you want to eat? What is that by?"
"When do you think Harris will have to nurse?"
"How many ride tickets do you have left?"
"We're running out of cash and will need to find an ATM if we're going to buy any more food."
"We need to find shade and rest somewhere because Olive is going nuts in this carrier."
"We need to find water, we're out."
"Where is the ice cream you want again? Is the Giant Slide on the way there? Should we split up? Please feel free to ditch us if there is something else you want to do."
It didn't help that Dan was sick this year. I didn't realize he was feeling quite as crappy as he was until we were in the thick of it and he was just clearly mega crabby. Like BEYOND. And while we were there it made me reeeeeallly angry and bummed, because he was just unbearable and we were all on tip toes around him. Well except me, I kept snapping at him and he kept snapping right back at me. Poor guy already hates the fair and the crowds so then throw on top of that a horrible cold and possible sinus infection... Well let's just say it wasn't fun for him and the rest of us sort of paid a little bit (or a lot) of the price.
Despite all that, somehow we stayed until after 4:00. How? I don't even know. But we did do most of the "kid" stuff that I had hoped to do, and I ate deep-fried pickles and a pronto pup, which are my two musts. (I had to stop Louie from eating my pickles when I saw that he was taking the pickles out and only eating the breading. Child, NO. Give those to me.) And I do know the kids had a lot of fun, especially on the rides, and they definitely enjoyed exploring everything there was to do in Baldwin park for families at the end of the day. Olive was a major trooper, when she got tired she just laid her head down on my shoulder and fell asleep in the pouch. And for a girl who is notorious for not being able to nurse with distractions, she nursed in the hot blaring sun on the bench right at the bottom of the big giant slide because she was hungry and tired and that was the first chance I had to stop and do it. It sucked, because I was literally surrounded by people, an elderly lady came and asked me to scootch over so she could sit down next to me (like right on top of me). Good times.
I need to temper my expectations and not try to do so much with the kids next year. It was fun, but also, I left the fair STARVING (that just ain't right), really sweaty from carrying Olive around all day, and pretty frustrated with Dan and worried that our snippiness with each other had made the rest of my family have a crappy day.
Louie fell asleep in the stroller on the walk back to to the car and somehow I was successfully able to transfer him (at over 45 pounds) from the stroller to his car seat, still asleep, and he didn't wake up until we pulled in the driveway. Amazing.
We always enter the fair via the north entrance, so we make a point to hit up the Little Farm Hands exhibit before it gets busy. The kids love it. Gus, true to form, still always refuses to wear the apron. Such a bizarre aversion, but so very Gus.
Louie is SO CUTE and enthusiastic with the whole thing, diligently doing every step, taking everything very seriously.
Pretty sure both kids would have done the interactive computer environmental/farming games at the end of this exhibit for an hour, but my family was waiting and we didn't come to the state fair to play with what are essentially iPads... so we scooted them out of there after about 15 minutes.
No wonder I was tired at the end of the day. Olive is huge. Poor Harris. Ready for the lactation station I think.
The Lactation Station at the MyTalk 107.1 booth is amazing. Diapers in all sizes, wipes, sunscreen, gliders, fans, carpet, SO AWESOME.
After nursing the babies we bought some pronto pups and caught a quick performance in Baldwin Park by a clown/mime type guy. But without the make-up, so the creepy factor was way toned down. The kids thought it was fun, and it was nice to sit while eating for a few minutes. Then it was off to the Kidway.
Loudest ride ever. Both kids said they liked it, but they looked like they hated it. Ha.
Gus loved these swings so so so so much. We came back at the end of the day for him to ride it again.
And Louie LOVES the carousel more than any other ride. He's definitely not a thrill-seeker kind of kid, but he's game for anything with animals or pretend animals. So carousel it is.
After the Kidway, we headed toward the food. Specifically, the big buckets of french fries & deep-fried pickles.
I managed to take a cute photo of Ben and his family, but NOTHING of my own family! Lame.
We always sit in the shade on the grass and eat our fries in this spot behind the grandstand. We happened upon a random ice-skating competition that Louie really enjoyed, ha. Only at the MN State Fair.
Then things get a bit hazy. Louie wanted so badly to go to the barns and see animals, but Gus did NOT. We went through the Horse barn and there was a fun hands-on exhibit there to check out, but then we tried to enter another barn and Gus stopped in his tracks. "YUCK! I am not going in another barn! It stinks so bad! Yuck!"
Blergh. We did make it to the cluster that is the Miracle of Birth barn. It's notoriously crowded, but Louie loves it soooooooooo much. I had to drag him away from this tiny baby pig. "He's so soft mom! Come pet him, he's so soft! I never want to stop petting him." What a little sweetheart. I wonder how long this animal obsession will last? We're going on nearly 3 years now.
While Gus and Dan found some sort of video game thing in the corner of the building (he sniffs them out), Louie and I watched a video of a mama pig giving birth to a bunch of babies from earlier in the day. He kept exclaiming, "She laid another one of them mom, she laid another baby pig!" Like she was laying eggs. Too funny. The topic of me birthing Olive in a similar fashion did actually come up and he was all, "Say wha?! Huh? Whatchootalkingbout?"
Then we split up from my family so they could get ice cream in the dairy building. While I wouldn't have minded ice cream, I kind of anticipated insane lines in there and we had promised the boys they could each pick out ONE overpriced souvenir. (I know.)
So after purchasing a sword and a stuffed horse on a leash, Dan did the Giant Slide with the boys while I fed Olive again, and then we started walking back towards Machinery Hill and the Kidway and Baldwin Park.
Alphabet park provided a nice photo op. :) The boys also made banner necklaces. It was a relief to just be away from the dust and sweaty hoards of people on the other side of the fair.
Then my family met up with us again and the boys all played for quite a while in the great big sandbox. So nice and shady in this part of the fairgrounds. Olive enjoyed crawling around on a blanket under a tree eating puffs. Dan finally ate something. A granola bar that we had brought from home. Exciting stuff.
So random. The kids wanted to walk through this Children's Hospital safety exhibit and do all of the activities so they could spin a wheel at the end and win a prize. (We took home a water bottle and a slap bracelet, woo hoo!)
By the way, those glasses are now used at home for a lot of pretend play that revolves around how to handle yourself around strangers.
Gus: "Hey little boy, do you want to come with me and pet my cute puppy?"
Louie: "NO!" (Running away screaming.)
Louie: "Hey kid, do you want to come play video games in my van with me?"
Gus: "NO!" (Running away screaming.)
Yeah, pretty creepy. I think this was a discussion Dan had with them. OMG.
Math on a Stick was also great, and the kids were surprisingly interested in hanging out here for a really long time. The rest of the fairgrounds are just so over-stimulating, I think they welcomed how quiet and peaceful all of these learning activities were. Score!
Finally, on our way out we were luck enough to see a State Patrol helicopter take off. Pretty cool experience, which capped off a really good, probably too long day at the fair. And Dan and I were crabbier than our kids, so that's saying something. ;)