The Minnesota State Fair runs for ten days at the end of summer, and is billed as the second largest state fair in the country. I have the pleasure of living close to the fairgrounds, close enough that the sounds from the grandstand shows drift through my windows some evenings, from Reba to Weezer. Glimpses of the daily closing fireworks appear just above our treetops. Driving by the fair you hear the sound of the Midway rides, carnival barkers, and happy people. Roll your car windows down, and you can smell the greasy food smell from the hundreds of “food on a stick” vendors. Chocolate covered jalapeno, anyone? I love the fair, but only go every few years myself.
When I do go, the “Miracle of Birth” barn remains a favorite place to visit. Countless young people from FFA are there tending to newborn creatures and their mothers. How they time all those births to actually happen at the fair is beyond me. Visiting the Home Arts building is always humbling, I am a decent cook and baker, but the entries there are stunning. If you have ever seen the petite but punchy Marjorie Johnsonon TV, perhaps showing Jay Leno how to make a pie, you will understand just how high the bar is set here.
The other place I love to go is, of course, the arts and crafts area. I love it all, the knitting, painting, bead-work, quilting, and so much more. This year there were over 100 ribbons awarded to various quilts in many categories. To get a decent look at all of them would take a few repeat trips to the fair! Some of the winners are totally new to quilting, let alone competitive quilting. But the names of many winnersare familiar to people who read quilt magazines or go to quilt shows regularly.
Not in the competition, but on display at the fair this year, is Julie Feingold’s amazing quilt, The Lost Heroes Art Quilt. Measuring nearly six by fifteen feet, it honors armed forces members lost in battle, each portrayed in an unusual way. Each square has the uniform and information about a particular soldier from one state. The head of each is a fabric photo of that soldier, not as an adult, but as a child. I had seen photos of this great work before, but it has so much more impact in person. Check the exhibit schedule, and see if it is coming anywhere near you.