First Friday at the Fair

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.

What will you do at the Minnesota State Fair this year?

72 thoughts on “First Friday at the Fair”

  1. I so loved starting my day at the Fair with TLGMS. Many years I had to work so only listened on the radio.
    I still remember calling in with suggestions when Ann Reed wrote a song about the Fair. It was the first one but that was before we knew there was to be a string of them.
    It was the first time I talked to Jim Ed and was awestruck that he sounded the same on my phone as he did on the radio.
    As I recall Ann came with the chorus pre-written and we (at the Fair or at home) were to supply ideas for the verses for our favorite things. I suggested Crop Art and Butterheads.
    I have since heard Ann sing it live and complain that in city after city she has to explain what Crop Art and Butterheads are. The Baboon in me is delighted!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Good morning. When I lived in Southern Minnesota, I didn’t get the fair very often. I did listen to the Morning Show broadcasts. Thanks for putting up those excerpts from a Morning Show broadcast at the fair, Dale. They are great!

    Now that I live in the Cities, I think I will make a trip there this year. As a devoted gardener, I will be sure to visit the horticulture building. I hope the people from the Minnesota mushroom growing and hunting group will be there. I had a very interesting visit with people from that group once when I did make the trip from Southern Minnesota to the fair.


    1. FYI, the BBC (Baboon Book Club) met at Jim and Kathy’s house on Sunday, which provided an opportunity to tour Jim’s garden.

      It was IMPRESSIVE — Seed Saver Jim grows vigorous stuff. All I can say is that manure is surely involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A lot of what I do in my garden is due to having become involved in seed saving. I encourage anyone who enjoys gardening to try doing some seed saving. You can do this on a small scale without too much effort and see if you like doing it.


        1. Seed saving is a goal of mine, for when I get a little more experienced at gardening. I’m still at the “You put seeds in the ground and they actually grow!” stage, and getting used to the idea that any of my plants survived long enough to produce something edible. For all that my parents grew up on farms, green thumbs do not run in the family.


        2. every year i pull the heads off those cone flowers and cosmos and those thick clumps of annuals that reseed themselves every year hoping to get it up and running but….. maybe this year


  3. Yesterday I thought about that first day at the fair and “Where’s Eric?” I used to hear the first hour of the show during my commute and wondered all day whether anyone had found Eric. Great memories. Thanks again.


  4. Rise at 4:30a.m. and drive to the fair sipping coffee Baboons!

    This year we are attending on Friday, Aug 29. I love the Fine Art Show, as well as the church food booths (Hamline United Methodist and Salem Lutheran). I also LOVE the little kiosk with apple dumplings JUST like Grandma used to make. A trip to the butterfly booth is a must, as well. We bought tickets to PHC Grandstand show since those days are surely waning.

    TLGMS at the Fair was a grand tradition for Lou and I. Beth Ann, I will bet we ran into each other at some point. We probably were at 14 of the 18 years, having missed the year of the downpour and lightening which knocked the show off the air. We were almost there and turned around and went home after the lightening strkies populated the sky.

    Great memories:

    Eric brought a 4-H sheep or goat in with him when he beat the seekers.
    Seeing Ann Reed write the songs and using one of my lines.
    Watching Dale narrate a marching band sequence that was a flight of fancy supported by a few marching band members behind us who provided sound effects. Very fun.
    Inviting our friends for a morning show party potluck–food on a stick, of course, during the show. We brought thermos of coffee which we also shared with other

    Dale, you and Tom were very witty and entertaining. Thanks for what you did.


    1. I can only speak for myself Jacque in saying that doing the fair show was a great pleasure. Tom was less enthusiastic. He liked doing the show and meeting the listeners but did not have much good to say about The Fair itself, and he usually left the grounds as soon as possible once the show was done (Elvis has left the building!). I’m grateful that he came anyway. We would have been lost and completely uninteresting without him.


  5. I’ve always gone to the Fair with people who like to get there early. As a little kid, we’d drive in and park around 6 AM or so and have breakfast at one of the church dining halls before anything opened. These days my roommate and I take the bus around 8 and have coffee and lefse before anything opens. Necessary stops are Creative Activities, Fine Arts, the Ag building, and the corn roast. Anything else, like the sheep/goats or DNR building, are gravy for when it’s not too hot and we’re not already exhausted. She’s planning on going twice this year to make sure she sees everything. I’d like to, but I’ve met a new friend, plantar fasciitis, and I’m not sure going once is the brightest idea I ever had.


  6. Morning all. I grew up primarily in St. Louis, which is way too far from the Missouri State Fair, so my visit to the Minnesota State Fair was a completely new experience for me. And I love it!

    Teenager and I are also early fair goers. We do the Park `n Ride and usually get to the fair about 8:30 a.m. We used to go earlier but since there is no Morning Show any longer, what’s the point?

    We do everything involved with animals (all the barns, pet center, stingrays, butterflys, snakes [I sit outside for this one]), machinery hill (she loves the big tractors and the new cars as well). I have to go see the christmas trees and run my fingers through the white pines. Kemps is a big draw as are the butterheads. Education building (never enough dioramas for me). Parade. We like to watch the dancers who frequent the DNR stage. We always get a coupon booklet and on the way out of the fair at the end of the day, we pick a family on their way in and give them the book with it’s remaining coupons.

    We’re going tomorrow.


  7. MUAH-HAH-HAAAAAAA!!! Studying in the Orient, I learned the ability to cloud men’s minds. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…”

    Y’know, I started listening to TLGMS in 1986, when a good friend of mine turned me on to it. Growing up in Duluth and having parents that didn’t feel compelled to drive down here for the Fair, I don’t have the same childhood memories that most people around here have. But when I moved down here in 1993, I knew I -had- to be at the live broadcast. I think I missed only 1 or 2 years in that run. I would be at the Judson/Nelson booth by 5:45 and be out of the Fair by 9:10. The -only- reason I would go to the Fair would be for the live show.

    Every year was a GREAT year. Rain or shine. Equipment problems or not. Every show was a hoot. And I definitely want to give a big THANK YOU to Dale for those occasions where I got used on-air. Unbelievably cool!!!

    For what everyone’s childhood memories mean to them about the Fair, the live shows of TLGMS are that for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I grew up in Iowa, and school started too early there for us to be in Minnesota when the Fair was on, so I also have no childhood memories of it. My parents were born and raised in Minnesota and I know my dad won a week at the Fair for a 4H project.

      I heard about the wonders of the Fair from them, so I guess those are my childhood memories of it (we never went to the Iowa State Fair, because I think the idea was that it would naturally be “not as”).

      So the first summer I lived here, I just had to go.

      I was not disappointed. Never have been.


      1. Yup, during the Radio Heartland live show. Mike Pengra was in the booth blogging that he couldn’t believe that he was blogging about watching me blog. There was lots of bloggerific blogification going on…

        Liked by 3 people

  8. I think the only time we ever actually made it to the show in person was maybe the last one (we had no idea it would be the last), and you could sign up to search for “Eric”, so the s&h did.

    The s&h has been going to the Fair every year since before he was born. We would meet my aged (now sainted) aunt by the hippodrome, do our Auntie Chris rounds, see her back to the bus, then do a bit more on our own.

    She died the first week in August, and we seriously considered not going that year. She hadn’t come with us for several years, but it still seemed odd. We did end up going and have gone every year since, but that year it was tough.

    Looks like next Saturday is our only option, so we are taking it.


  9. I moved to Texas and Vermont and am back in Minnesota.
    The Morning Show held a dear spot in my heart and annoyed my friends as I forced them to listen. I was a sunrise fairground listener and you were the start to my fair experience for the day. I have been a heartland fan since conception. Life happens and I lose connection.. So sought you out and voila! You are here! And my favorites live on… I’m a happy girl. Dr. Larry Kyle was pure inspiration. (I’m a physics kid) Should you want to learn scuba with a team of people that love the experience but understand the fears.. Contact me. Scuba paid for my teaching.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome to the Trail, Melissa.

      I found my way here in a similar fashion. One day I wondered, “Whatever happened to Dale & Jim Ed?” and a google search turned up this blog. It took a few weeks or months of reading – and laughing a lot – before I had the courage to post a comment, but I was warmly welcomed and I’m so glad I found the Baboons.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. I’m a latecomer to loving the Fair – grew up in Iowa and (sniff) never “got” it how much fun it would be to experience the Morning Show at the Fair. But I’m making up for lost time – since I learned to Go with a Guide (see TB 9-3-12), I now know how to make the most of it – we’re going with Linda next Wednesday. Besides the usual wonders, there’s something at 10:30a.m. with Kevin Kling and Chris Monroe… and the Llama Costume Competition at 6:30 (you can sit down if you get there early enough…)

    There are lots of benches around and about the Fair, but they’re often full of people. I’m in the market for one of those little umbrella-looking-things that becomes a “portable chair” – anyone know where you find those?


      1. That would be nice. And maybe one of you can buy a perfectly useless food toy from a man wearing a microphone. And then another of you can enjoy some moments of furtive passion in Ye Olde Mill. Another of you can tell me about the latest seed art portrait of Jesse Ventura. And I’d love to hear about the most whimsical object in the art barn. I have come to terms with the fact I will not live forever, but I absolutely cannot accept the fact I’ll never again wander the crowded streets of the Fair, wearing some smeary kind of Fair food on my cheeks, my hands smelling from rubbing a lamb at the 4H barn . . . awww, geez!


        1. Yes, you can’t minimize the loss here – no longer having direct physical access to The Fair is a sacrifice. But on the positive side of things, it sounds like you’ve stored up enough memories to “go there” at will. And your Fair Of The Mind is likely to be not quite as hot and much less exhausting than the actual one. Plus, no parking worries!

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Went yesterday on opening day with Daughter, Friend of Daughter, Husband and The Exchange Student from Greenland (who is doing some student work at Husband’s office/lab). The ESfG was perplexed and amused by the butter heads, charmed by the 4H kids and the notion of sheep, pig and cow competitions, and game for even the crazy slingshot-you-in-the-air ride (only person I’ve known who has actually gone the thing).

    This year’s trip was sort of a whirlwind, driven mostly by Daughter and FoD – so mostly rides, animals, sticky foodstuffs (the John Deere-made ice cream was a bowl full of creamy goodness). Did not get to the art show this year or see the high school kids with their robots – sorrow. May try to get to the art show when Husband and I go back to see Prairie Home Companion at the Grandstand. Will have to contemplate parking, though – clearly making the west entrance larger (and more of a “main” entrance means that our favorite parking spots on the St Paul campus of the U of MN fill faster).

    Never managed to get to the TLGMS at the fair – loved listening in though, especially the Where’s Eric game. It was fun to try and play along from home with my sketchy knowledge of the fair.


  12. Maybe if I had ever made it to the LGMS at the fair, or had a tradition of visiting the Fair when I was a kid, I would have better feelings about it. But, no, I just can’t do the Fair. Of course there is the money issue – but the main thing is being around all those people is way, way too overwhelming for me. I just can’t handle it. I don’t get full-blown panic attacks, but I panic. My mind goes into a fog – a huge, swirling, murky, thick fog – and I can’t decide what to see next or figure out where it is or how to get there from where I am (because I don’t know where I am). So, I will stay far, far away from the fair. I know I’m in the minority here, but there it is.


      1. There is that, MIG, but every year a group of us jailbirds who have been especially well-behaved and haven’t used up their allotted day passes get to go to the fair. Your taxpayer dollars hard at work!

        I made a point of using my allotment of day passes for things like book club, baboon field trip to the Swedish Institute, and the farewell for Steve. And just to be safe, I’ve been especially badly behaved the past week so I think I won’t get picked to be part of the “lucky” group this year.


  13. I go The Fair regularly, about once every five years. I made it to the LGMS at The Fair three times. I tend to go when visitors from out of town are here during The Fair. Yesterday we had a couple from Denmark visiting, but they didn’t seem eager to go, and since the humidity was high, we opted for a less strenuous tour of the cities. They’ll never know what they missed.


  14. I had hoped last year that this year we could go to the Fair, but my dad wouldn’t be up to it, so we will shoot for next year. We were able to go to the Iowa State Fair when son was 6. Son and husband had a blast participating in a children’s activity that allowed child and adult volunteers to put on a play. Son got to dress like a pirate, and husband was “volunteered” to be the pirate king. As I recall there was sword fighting involved. What a neat Fair activity!

    We are currently experiencing another monsoon-like weather system that is bringing heavy rain to the region. While we usually like rain here, the wheat and barley are ready for harvest and are being knocked down by the rain. Some of the wheat was going 50-70 bushels an acre last week before the first monsoon system hit last weekend. Have fun at the Fair, dear baboons!


    1. Renee, if you want, you can park you dad with us while you go to the fair. I’ll be glad to spend some time visiting with him and doing some less strenuous activity than going to the fair. Next week and weekend is wide open for us, so would be no trouble at all.


      1. Oh, thank you so much! I am afraid it would be the car trip to Minnesota that would be too much for him.. He just can’t travel that distance any more.


  15. My first trip to the Fair this year will be on Sunday, when I will be at the Minnesota Humane Society booth in the Pet Center. It’s supposed to be hot. Ice cream will be high on my to-do list, and I’ll go to the sheep barn to look at the goats, and generally wander around to see what’s new.

    Later in the week there will be more time to see the sights more thoroughly. The llamas are Not To Be Missed.


  16. I made the LGMS at the fair at least once. I can’t remember if I was at one of Ann Reed’s creation shows or if I have turned it into a false (but happy) memory.
    #2 Son and I decided a few years ago that every other year was enough but we have a hard time remembering if this is an ON year or an OFF year. We’ve decided that this is an ON year and so we’ll be heading over on Thursday.
    We both like the pigs, the Miracle of Birth, one of the overhead rides, Eco Experience and all the food. He patiently goes along for my thrills: Giant Singalong, Fine Arts, Creative Arts, horses, Ag-Hort.

    I’d never been to a state or county fair until I moved to Minnesota at age 22. I had a mental image of a dusty open shelter over long tables covered in baked goods, jams and jellies. The creative, stout farm women would be standing behind the tables in flowery dresses.
    I was disappointed to see the jams, jellies and baked goods on shelves behind protective glass. No farm women in sight.

    But I love the fair. The first time I came, it was by myself. My employer, KSTP, had given us tickets and I had about 2.50 in cash after I covered my bus fare. I stretched that 2.50 but had a great time just soaking up all the free options.


      1. VS is correct – up by the Pet Center. 20 or so PVC microphone holders of different heights so many people can sing along at the same time. I always try to throw in some harmonies but I think that the design of the thing is to average out the good and bad voices autotuning it to the melody. Still fun.


  17. I’m starting at the new west end this year I’ll be going tomorrow and it will alter my routine usually I coming over at the horse barn is more to the horses and the cows and pigs in the Jeep and the chickens and roosters and the goats and the bunnies hitting stops along the way at the chocolate milkshake the cheese curds and a lemonade
    Then cutting across to get the giant bucket of french fries on my way to the horticulture building on route to the spot where they do the knitting in the quilts in the baking looking at the handicrafts they have there then over to the northern tool Home Depot area where there are always wonderful demonstrations and cool weird stuff for sale then into the buildings where they have the windows and other shammy like onto the art building the eco-building back to visit Linda’s Humane Society thing in the corner while stopping at tractors and cars and Tanson trailers along the way coming back around to get something at the bandstand cheese on a stick and 45 locations at least and then doing the loop one more time and make sure that I haven’t missed anything before the fireworks go off at 10 o’clock at night then it’s time to go home
    This year so far I know that I’m going Saturday Monday Wednesday and Friday but there might be an extra trip in addition in there somewhere I start going less since I have the family are used to go seven or eight times and hit all the music stuff at the grandstand I don’t know whether my thesis changed her the booking agent for the fairest changed it seems to me that used to have people I like they don’t anymore every known again Willy Nelson or somebody of that caliber will come i’ve seen Bob deal on there twice and Carlos Santana what was with them one time that was a funny one I miss the old demolition derby in the figure 8 track out there at the fairgrounds I miss the Spinningwheel like the wheel of fortune except you’d put your dime on the color red or green or blue and when it landed on there you would get the pack of cigarettes that was sitting on the spinning wheel that was my favorite fair event when I was 12 and 13
    I appear to have passed on the gene my kids all look forward to going to her three or four times and their friends look forward to going with us we were going to go tomorrow to celebrate my new son-in-law’s birthday and friends asked if they could come along to say no we’re going to the fair and where the most fun so it’s going to be a large group tomorrow I have a funeral to go to visitation at 10 service at 11 get home till 1215 so the departure time for the fair is one I hope the funeral doesn’t run long


  18. Oh my gosh! I just went to the fair yesterday and now I get home and the blog’s about the fair too?! Isn’t that ironic?! Greatest fair in the world but I don’t have to tell YOU that. We went early so we could have breakfast and experience about an hour of spaciousness. Daughter had taken notes on new fair food reviews so we were prepared – although we ended up trying just two of them: apple rolls and snoribbons. (Both were good but apple roll was the better.)

    As a child I attended the largest county fair in the world. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it?! The Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa?! In 1969 The Cowsills played at the grandstand, for God’s sakes! One week later they appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and one week after that, when the TV show Love American Style debuted, the theme song was sung by none other than – you guessed it – The Cowsills!! Another bit of trivia – each of these dates fell on a Monday! What are the odds??

    Oh, those Morning Shows from the fair … that was blissful listening.


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