One of the crowd, again, in Minnesota

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair is over, but it was so much fun! Minnesota was my home for 30 years and I still miss it. The State Fair is one of the three largest in the country, along with Ohio and Texas.

On opening day, when I attended this year’s fair, there was a crowd of almost 118,000. That’s almost as large as Chautauqua County at 129,000! And yet, only a few venues seemed crowded, like the cheese curd stand or the midway with all its rides.

You know, my kids never knew there was a midway at the fair until they were in their late teens. We never went there, we concentrated on the farm animals, creative arts building and the corn booth instead. The corn booth … ah, heaven. Corn is roasted on an open fire, in their husks, then stripped down and plunged into a vat of butter; salt optional. People are lined 10 deep on all sides of the booth, waiting for their turn at butter dripping down their chins and succulent corn kernels exploding in their mouths.

I don’t do a lot of fair food. I find my stomach cannot tolerate deep fried Twinkies or deep fried gator on a stick, or deep fried anything these days. The inventiveness of food vendors is truly amazing. You can even get key lime pie on a stick at the fair. Now that’s saying something!

I head for the crepe booth where they serve crepes with strawberries and cream, crepes with ham and cheese, crepes with peanut butter and hazelnut spread wrapped in bacon … you get the picture. My daughters think it sacrilegious to not eat a bag of mini donuts, cheese curds and elephant ears while at the fair.

I didn’t make it to the animal barns this year. I love seeing all the sheep, goats, chickens and pigs. Well, not so much the pigs unless they’ve just dropped a brood of piglets. I enjoy the judging of the animals as well. The 4-H kids work long and hard to bring their prize stock to the fair. I’m not much good at picking the winners, unless it’s goats. I can pick the winning goat every time!

The Minnesota State Fair prides itself on being inclusive of everybody who attends. Handicap ramps are everywhere and all races and creeds mingle without incident. It is Minnesota, however, where 85 percent of the population is white; mostly German and Scandinavian Lutherans. Minnesota in the 1970s, under the leadership of Walter Mondale, welcomed a large population of Hmong and Vietnamese immigrants to the state; from the 1990s until 2012 the Somali population grew to around 57,000; and currently Minnesota welcomes the Karen ethnic minority from Myanmar, most of them from refugee camps in Thailand. One of the things I love about Minnesota, and the Twin Cities in particular, is their willingness to accept others who may be different. There is a phrase that is repeated often there – Minnesota nice. I wish that more people would practice “Minnesota nice.”

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to