Today is the first Friday of the Minnesota State Fair.
For Eighteen straight years while I was working with Tom Keith at Minnesota Public Radio I didn’t have to think about what would happen on this day – it was our routine to do a live broadcast from the grounds. We had wonderful fun each time we went out, thanks in large part to our amazing producers (Nora McGillivray, Silvester Vicic, Mike Pengra) and a loyal audience that, in many cases (I’m looking at you, T.G.I.T.H.) managed to crash the gates before the fair opened at 6am.
The fairgrounds are lovely just before dawn and Pronto Pups smell surprisingly good in the morning air. Our technical crew (Mike Osborne, Rick Hebzynski, Scott Yankus and many others over the years) arrived literally in the middle of the night to have everything ready for us at 6 am.
In the later years, Eric Ringham would appear just before air time with his backpack and his DCOTY (Discardable Clothing of the Year), completely prepared to go hide on the fairgrounds for the “Where’s Eric” game.
Yes, we knew there would be at least one costume change.
Through the years, all of Eric’s pursuers made it fun but Leslie Ball and Ochen Kaylan stood out for their familiarity with the terrain and their eerie ability to unlock the clues. In the final year we took to hiding decoys just to slow them down a bit.
I shed tear for this tradition every time first Friday comes along, and I know many Babooners feel the same way.
You can still hear our final broadcast from the fair online. I’m proud of it – we had Ann Reed, Dan Wilson and ‘Pert Near Sandstone on stage and many of the standard Morning Show characters making what we knew would be their last fairgrounds appearance.
If you don’t have three hours to kill, here are some excerpts. This might be especially helpful for those who read about the Sherpa a few days ago, but haven’t heard Wally’s voice as he describes the product in his inimitable fashion.
What will you do at the Minnesota State Fair this year?