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The old, weathered clock at the Minnesota State Fair strikes 6am, and Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar stand is already humming. The smell of cookies - so fresh and warm that they melt right into your soul as you eat them - blankets the fairgrounds with its spell, entrancing all who pass.
First to approach the stand is Aaron Brown, a 36-year-old man riding a medical scooter meant for the elderly. He raps his Freedom Wand against the booth counter, signaling that his face is ready for cookies.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” said Brown, with a level of politeness that doesn’t exist outside the Midwest. “Could you fill my mouth with warm cookies until I die?”
“Sure thing, honey!” said the employee, grabbing a large paper funnel. “Open wide and we’ll just see how many we can cram in there. I’ll stop pushing when your eyes roll back in your head or you crap yourself.”
“Oh, you can keep going if I crap myself,” said Brown, loosening the belt on his pants. “Pay no heed to the noises coming from this chair, ma’am. If my mouth gets full, just stack more cookies on my forehead and around the opening of my gaw so they’re ready to be toppled in once there’s room.”
Brown will eat nearly $147 worth of cookies this morning. In true “Minnesota nice” fashion, he will then trek across the fairgrounds to the restroom on the agriculture side so the awful aftermath of his choices will only horrify the livestock.
Ten minutes later, the cows in nearby barn 34A begin mooing in unison, as if an angry storm were approaching.
A newcomer to the Minnesota State Fair may mistake the fairgrounds for a gathering of cosplay enthusiasts. While the army of Minnesotans riding Hoverounds may be fans of Professor Xavier of the X-Men, they’re not mimicking him. They’re the real deal, and they have no time for your shallow judgement.
“I’m wearing a diaper right now. Aren’t you?” said Kate Schultz, a 20 year veteran of the fair. “You’re not wearing one? Just gonna use a public restroom like the rest of the muggles? Boy, you must be pretty green! A real amateur! Hey Becky! This skinny little fella ain’t even wearing a diaper! What a joke! How late does your mommy let you stay out at the fair?”
“Hey now, you be nice Kate,” said Becky Bryant, another longtime fairgoer. “After you earn some experience, you’ll realize standing in line for a bathroom is a waste of time. Just put on one of these Depends, fill ‘er up and toss it off the side of the gondolas. No one will be able to catch you. Total freedom. The kind of freedom that makes you feel alive, like robbing a bank or kidnapping a child from Tijuana!”
Outside this world, these Fargo-esque weirdos are the butt of other people’s cruel jokes. Here at the fair, they are royalty. Outnumbering healthy people by a ratio of nearly 75-to-1, the fair is their turf. Those not wearing a half-soiled diaper or carrying a greasy bucket of fried smelt the size of a small automobile will be mocked with brutal Midwestern sarcasm.
Yet they aren’t the only gang roaming the fairgrounds. There’s also the milk drunkards. This crowd started innocently enough. In 1955, the fair made an ill-advised choice to allow an “all you can drink” milk stand and ever since, drunken teenagers have been playing a twisted game of chicken to see who can drink the most milk without barfing.
Sadly, everyone who plays this game seems to lose.
“Edina High School football rules!” shouted Frank Haataja, moments before a fire hose worth of white vomit burst from his mouth as if his face were a broken fire hydrant. “Oh God! What’s happening?! I can’t stop it! I can’t ... BLEURGHHHHHH!”
The devastating effects last for hours, and the curdling of the milk causes the nausea to linger through the following morning. Like ice fishing or banking with Wells Fargo, it’s hard to feel bad for the victims when they’re torturing themselves on purpose.
“Call . . . call my mom and tell her to come pick me up by the BLAAARRRGGGHHHH! Oh no please make it HURRRGGGGGGHHHHH! Oh God. Oh God. Oh God! I’ll start going to church, just make it stop. I’m never drinking again! I don’t care if girls are watching, bro! Tell my mom to hurry and BLAAAAARRRFFF!”
Toss in the perv swerves who get handsy with the hand-carved Butter Queen sculptures, the drunks who try to fistfight the Holsteins in the livestock barns, and the kids who faceplant at the top of the Giant Slide and skinburn the rest of the way down on their face, and you’ll have most of the major players in the state fair scene. Very few of these people can function outside of this protective fair bubble.
“Sometimes I get these feelings,” said Tony Carr, who has been arrested seven times for punching butter sculptures of teenage dairy princesses. “The fair gets close to done and I start to lose it. That’s when those smug butter ladies get the fisticuffs. They need to keep the fairgrounds open year round, otherwise all us freaks are just gonna stumble around bothering people in the real world. Quit lookin’ at me, butter lady! The fair ain’t over yet! Before this is over, I’m gonna punch her right in her dumb buttery face.”