Not many events were as exciting to me as a kid as the Minnesota State Fair. I anticipated our annual trip all summer long. Were a farm family and the main reason for going was machinery hill. Eighty acres of farm equipment of every imaginable kind. The Minnesota State Fair machinery hill was larger than the entire Iowa State Fair, we were told. At least that helped to fuel our feeling of superiority over our neighbors to the south.
Our State Fair trip was always between the morning and evening chores, so we woke early and worked fast to get on the road by 8am. We also knew that chores would still be waiting when we returned that night.
My dad would park the car in the lot at the top of machinery hill and we would begin to hike along each street admiring the displays. It smelled of fresh sawdust and delicious food everywhere. The Patz company had a barn cleaner running continuously conveying wood shavings that went up the chute and dropped back into the gutter to make another trip. Were amazed because never before had a barn cleaner looked so clean.
My dad knew most of the sales reps at each booth and they were primed to try and sell him the newest and best they had that year. My favorite was the John Deere exhibit. I would check out the riding lawn mowers. The John Deere 140 was the biggest lawn tractor available in the late 1960’s, with a huge 14 horsepower engine. I was in awe and never dreamed I would mow lawn with a 27 hp zero turn when I grew up.
A couple of the farm machinery companies would have a tent set up with bleachers where you could sit and watch a tractor parade while the announcer pointed out all the features of each model. Our blood was green but we still sat there and admired the orange, yellow, red and blue tractors as they chugged through. The dairy building was always on the agenda to visit. There we would get a milk shake and watch as one farmer’s daughter had her life size likeness carved in butter. They would even bring out a tray of butter chips served on crackers for us to taste, as the artist shaped the block into a pretty girl’s face.
As the day progressed, we would head toward the grandstand to see three levels of merchandise waiting for us to purchase. I still recall one year as we walked down Dan Patch Avenue, one of my dad’s friends saw us and headed toward us. His greeting to my father was, “the things you see when you don’t have a gun.” And then they laughed and talked, leaving this ten-year-old boy contemplating their silly banter.
One of the less pleasant experiences of my life took place in the grandstand one year. There were salesmen pitching their vacuum cleaners, mops, sewing machines and every house hold appliance made. For some reason the guy demonstrating a liquefier caught their attention. He would chuck every inedible food product into this machine and after grinding it into a juice, he would pour some into a tiny Dixie cup and hand it out to the observers. I watched in horror as vegetables and a whole egg went in the top and then was dispensed into sample size portions for unsuspecting kids to consume. My parents bought this contraption and seeing he had a captive audience, the hawker poured us each a large cup of the brew. I could barely choke down the first batch and now I was given a second large helping. As an obedient child I knew that I couldn’t refuse food offered with such good intent.
All of the delicious smells of fair food were suddenly drowned out by this unwanted health drink. I mean how many ten-year-old boys have a taste for vegetable juice?