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As I See It: Diversity on steroids

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From 1958 to 1967, my family lived directly across the street from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. My friends and I roamed freely throughout the fairgrounds almost year-round and spent countless hours there when the fair was there.

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My best friend and I had a booth one year selling custom car-themed shirts that he airbrushed on the spot. He was an accomplished artist and I was the counter guy. He drew the girls and I tried - unsuccessfully - to catch the castoffs.

Once I left for the Air Force in 1967, I never made it back to St. Paul during fair time and I sorely missed the whole thing. So, once we moved back here permanently in 2002, we have made it a point to spend one day at the fair each year.

I've missed a couple, but not because I wanted to do so.

Last Friday saw us making another trip to the fair. My sister still owns the house where we grew up, so I had free parking amidst the cacophony of the neighbors hawking parking spots along with whoever was occupying additional space to sell their wares - mostly knockoffs of one thing or another.

We seem to have settled into the same route every year - crafts, fine arts, the pet barn, a stop at the Harley-Davidson tent where I try not to drool on the bikes on display. By then it's time to head down to the grandstand where we get our London Broil sandwich - the best food at the fair to my way of thinking.

Then we take about an hour touring the grandstand vendors. Mini doughnuts provide dessert and then to Pioneer Village to see the new setup, which I think they blew.

The new theater is nice, but the seats seem to be constructed to hold a 300-plus pound-sized posterior and it's much too loud now. Glitz, glass and chrome will never replace the down home feeling of the old buildings that are gone forever.

Then my wife has to have a cream puff and in short order it's on to the French fries and then park on a bench while we consume those and an adult beverage. Then we just wander around and she visits her favorite haunt and purchases another couple of figurines for the garden.

We make our way up to get the Sweet Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookies and we eat the hot ones on top until we can close the bucket, which never seems to keep them from drying out.

All this time we are walking and stopping wherever we see something or someone of interest. We usually make the loop back to near our starting point in about five hours and we hit the Leinie Lodge in time to catch the last half of their show - this year it was a superb male quartet who captivated us while we sat on a bench and watched the world go by.

As we were sitting there I started to make some mental notes of what I saw and it struck me that I was witnessing diversity at its peak. The youngest person I saw couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old and I'm sure I saw a few couples in their late 80s or 90s. There were couples of every description you might come up with and people of most ethnic groups, too.

I can't say that I noted anyone who appeared overly rich, but I certainly saw a large cross section of Middle America passing by in the last half-hour. Everyone seemed to be having a good time - even the harried parents who were trying to keep track of one to five kids seemed to be enjoying the slightly exhausting experience.

In spite of the crowded conditions, no one appeared to be pushy, discourteous or in a great hurry.

There's truly something there for everyone and if there's something you don't care about, you aren't obligated to go see it. And no one makes an issue out of it. Too bad we can't make that work all year.

Maybe the Great Minnesota Get-Together could teach us all something about how to get along.

And in case you're wondering, we haven't eaten since we returned.

Well, that's the way I see it.

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