Dipping Into The Sugar Of The Quintessential Fair Cookie Jar

The last night on the Midway slowed down to a trickle, with cloudy skies, the threat of storms, and a vendors looking for last chance customers. Brian, of St. Paul, played the rollerball game again and again, hoping to add to his cache of winnings for his waiting child – or his inner child. He was in the middle of his last try when the ferris wheel lights went dark; the understood sign to all employees that the Midway is closed. The music stopped, there was a silent beat – and then I heard engines starting up somewhere behind me in the dark. I had been warned to stay alert and out of the way, as the huge trailer trucks began squeezing into the spaces between concessions and rides. On went the hard hats and the safety shirts, as the staff who had already worked a long day shifted into high gear and worked through the early morning hours, their demolition ironically lit by the pulsating, still-breathing lights of their own rides. Boxes full of customer tickets were rushed to the back of the Midway for redemption:the ferris wheel medallion was removed. The workers moved fast; at least one ride needed to be ready for the opening of a Fair in Oklahoma in two days.

Bittersweet, I sighed, as I watched two tired workers steal a moment and dig into the sugar of the quintessential Fair cookie jar.

Good News Comes In Threes

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 12.24.31 AM 001Pinky Toes-DSC_6628 Me and Stuffed Stewie-8858

Three very nice things happened yesterday. I got a call from the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit telling me that someone (thank you, dear someone) purchased my “Pinky Toes” piece; my Nuns photos was in the Mpls Star Tribune viewer photos (thanks, Eileen Schiebe Chanen for alerting me to submit), and a Midway Fair worker gave me a stuffed Stewie as a thanks for taking his photo and emailing it to him (which I would have done anyway.) He then wished me a great year. I held my Stewie on the bus ride home like he was the best gift ever. And I noticed every other adult was doing the same with their stuffies. :)

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bobs

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bob-1873

Jazzmine and James, both of Dallas, Texas, were surrounded by blue and white bulbs. Hundreds of them. More than Jazzmine and I could count. She was on task, and I couldn’t do the math. It was two days before the opening of the Fair, and they were in sync repeating the tedious job of setting up “The Beetle Bobs” on the Kidway.  Over and over they unpacked and gently set into place the “sweeps” – the long beams that light up the spokes of the ride.

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bob-1895Each sweep –  and there are 17 of them – needed to have every light inspected, and there are 16 lights on each sweep. Often the internal circuitry in the light needed to be replaced, which required an eternity of patience and fine finger dexterity. “It’s mostly water that makes them go bad,” said James.

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bob-1914 Neither James nor Jazzmen spoke much. They just keep moving onto the next sweep, and the next bulb. They had already hung all the overhead lights. Again, I wanted to know how many bulbs were on the Beetle Bob? They didn’t know. Perhaps it was too discouraging to know. I swore I would never curse a single blown lightbulb in my house again.

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bob-1904

James was all about getting this ride set up and had a rhythm going loading the sweeps; I felt like I was interrupting to ask for their emails so I could send them photos. Jazzmine gave me hers right away; James seemed to ignore my request and kept working, which I took to mean he didn’t have an email account. Then, uncharacteristically, he stopped loading the sweeps and disappeared for a bit. He returned with a torn piece of corrugated cardboard on which he had written his email: JEW3333 and a host account.

Because I’m Jewish, and this man was of very dark skin color which usually does not mean Jewish, at least in this country, I had to ask the man of few words: “Why JEW – in all caps?”

“Those are my initials.”

The Bulbs Of The Beetle Bob-1933

I laughed; gave him my card so he could see this story; watched as he put the card in his mouth (the same storage space he uses for lightbulbs); and let James and Jazzmine continue loading the sweeps and fixing the bulbs on the Beetle Bobs –  because soon enough they’d be working with an even larger number of small things.

Ride The Beetle Bobs-6345







Our Great Midway!

Let’s spend a moment in our happy place.

Our Great Midway-5840This iconic Midway image was brought to you by short little me getting higher than my little legs like to go!

Available as a print on archival metallic paper, so you can be happy all year ’round.


Portraits Of William

When I first saw William, I thought he had been hit by a truck.

William Takes A Nap-1775He was being smart, the kind of smart that comes from years of Midway experience. He and his co-workers knew to rest in the shade of the trucks until the ‘boss comes and we can set this ride up. It’ll be up in about 2 hours,” he said with pride. William is originally from 1900 family acres in Montana, but now lives in Waxahachie, TX, a town that both of us had trouble spelling so we settled on Dallas/Ft. Worth. He left Montana when the government closed the oil rights on their property.


I asked William how he lost the top half of his fingers on his right hand, assuming it was a work-related injury from his years of hands-on labor. “I was born this way. But it hasn’t stopped me.” He then proceeded to list all the jobs he could do, from driving the big rigs to fixing the small bulbs. Those hands were still working when I returned to the Midway hours later at dusk. The ride that was supposed to take two hours to set up had to have all the seats removed and some key parts replaced. “Being extra safe,” said William.

William, the Night Before Opening Day 2-2342

I promised William I’d bring prints of him later in the week.  “I’ll be working the bumper cars on the Kidway,” he said with the same pride he had for all ‘his’ rides. He asked how much the prints were. Nothing; my thanks to him. His thanks to me? I got a free ride on the kiddie bumper cars.

That’s my kind of ride, the kind that gives me thrills: that great circle of energy where we give what we can – and what we love – to give.

And on the circuit that is William from Waxahachie’s life the next stop is home, The Dallas State Fair. There, at the grand finale of the midway worker’s season, he’ll work from dawn to midnight for close to 4 weeks.

“I wouldn’t still be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it.”

William At Night-2431


Janey Had A Little Lamb

Janey Had A Little Lamb

Which followed her everywhere. Off lead. No leash. Says Chisago County High School senior Jane, “The week before the Fair, she didn’t listen to me at all. I think, once at the Fair, “Pepper” bonded with me as her Mother. She’s only 6 months.”

Pepper would occasionally get distracted, but Jane soon coaxed her onto the right path. Jane, who also shows dogs, says she wasn’t quite as pleased with how she did in “Sheep Showmanship” compared to her other competitions, and says she has more to learn. In my humble opinion: Her sheep walks without a leash – that’s plenty impressive for me!


The Calm Before The Crowds

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Amusements, Blog, Colors, State Fair / BeyondTheStick

The Calm Before The Crowds-2421

The night before opening day is always so sweet and quiet: the calm before the crowds. The Midway owners turn the ride lights on, as if to acknowledge that set up is done, and here she is in all her glory. Game on! We’re ready for you! 

Product Placement

Totally walking his talk, or the side of his truck’s talk, as he and his partner carried an endless number of 5-hour Energy displays bottles. He told me they’re not heavy. Only about 100 pounds.

Walks His Talk_5 Hr. Energy-1978

How Many Men Does It Take To…..

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Amusements, Blog, Ironies, State Fair / BeyondTheStick

How many men does it take to place an umbrella and two garbage cans?
I’m not mocking; I’ve never built a Fair.

Just an observer here……but it was amusing to see these guys work it out among themselves.

How Many Men Does It Take?-1866


Strong Woman

The tent wasn’t up yet, and the guys were hanging.

Heavy LiftingSerena looked like the one in charge. At one point it looked like she was going to lift the tent herself.Heavy Lifting-1817
Soon I realized it took a crew of 12 to lift the tent. Serena was beaming when it was up. “This game is my baby. My sister’s aunt groomed me for it.” Check out the Buoy Pitch, but mostly, check out Serena. She’s the anchor of it all.Heavy Lifting-1824





Wise Woman

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Amusements, Blog, Ironies, State Fair / BeyondTheStick

The Less You Have To Remember-1783


Hope, of Indiana, had it under control as she calmly instructed her crew to change out the Wisconsin State Fair sign for the Minnesota State Fair sign. “The less you have to remember, the better you are.” I asked how long it takes to set up their basketball game. She laughed: “If you have two weeks, it takes two weeks….”

It’s two days before the Fair, and she never broke a sweat.

Time Flies

Another year has flown by.
How did I use it? Whom did I impact? What did I share?

Did I dare to soar? Did I loosen my grip?

Time Flies

“Time Flies”

I wish for you time spent with those you love, doing what you love, giving and receiving love.
I wish for you abundance, grace, and gratitude, as we fly on this ride of ever-changing times.

I wish for us a sharing and a caring of our talents and our gifts, with each other, and our planet.

Let us spread our arms wide, sensing, feeling, embracing time as it rushes by.

Time; you say goodbye – but I say hello!

Wishing you a joyful New Year.


You Say Goodbye, But I Say Hello

The Minnesota State Fair has said goodbye….but does that mean I have to say goodbye to joyful moments and meeting new friends (of various species)? My mantra this Winter season: Goodbye darkness; Hello life and light!
With me?

001You Say GoodBye, But I Say Hello-_DSC6095


Spin Art

Compliments of The Wellenflug. Translation:Wave Swinger.

History of this international amusement park Grande Dame: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellenflug_(Fahrgeschäft)

Once again, spinning out of control at the Minnesota State Fair with www.BeyondTheStick.com.

Spin Art-_DSC7646

Building The Crazy Mouse

Building The Crazy Mouse

Those of you who have followed my Fair photos know that I’ve spent a crazy amount of time admiring and photographing the construction and completion of the Crazy Mouse ride. This year is no different; the obsession remains, this year with a feline-like focus on the quickly changing 001Building The Crazy Mouse-_DSC3680-Editshapes and patterns.

Water Colors

On the last day of the heat wave, on the last day of August,  it poured.  Minnesotans stayed and played.  And so did I.

Click on collage photos to see full images.

View and purchase all State Fair photos.

Just Another Day At The Fair

And I’m sure you saw even more of the same. Or different. The point is, there’s more.

To say the least.

World’s Brightest Midways

How many lightbulbs does it take to draw in customers?

Showmen Supplies knows, as operator Jeff points to the Midway under construction: “We’re a rolling warehouse to keep all of that running.”  Started 17 years ago by two brothers in a carnival-roving station wagon, Showmen’s, “We Light The World’s Brightest Midways”  is now the giant semi  full of bulbs, generators, boxes, cables and every replacement part a loud Midway could need, quietly tucked behind the scenes.