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.
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. :)
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.
Each 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.
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.
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.”
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.
Let’s spend a moment in our happy place.
Available as a print on archival metallic paper, so you can be happy all year ’round.
When I first saw William, I thought he had been hit by a truck.
He 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.
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.”
Not only did the 4H kids clean up in award ribbons, but their exhausted exuberism cleaned up messy barns and loaded trailers full of gear and animals. There was a lot of waiting until their truck arrived, and I was most amused to see how they amused themselves.
Meet the clean up crew from St. Clair High School, who for the past 16 years has cleaned the sheep show ring as a school fundraiser. The dust was flying, as the tradition continued.
Finally the family truck arrived, and it was time to load the goats, as well form the the tack assembly line.
And then the next group for the middle 4 days of the Fair started to arrive, and the cycle of push-pull-lift-carry started all over again.
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!
Day 2 of the 2016 Minnesota State Fair was decreed Unite In Purple day to honor Prince, our native son. The Fair was packed with record setting attendance; a large portion of the solid sea of people wore purple. We actively shared in the communal loss, for, as social activist Sandra said, “I’m here because for me, his death was devastating, to put it mildly.” We danced freely with friends and sang loudly with strangers, turning shock and sorrow into a party that felt like it may never end.
And we have a Fair!
The tent wasn’t up yet, and the guys were hanging.
Serena looked like the one in charge. At one point it looked like she was going to lift the tent herself.
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.
Work you have seen, new work you haven’t seen; come enjoy the views and let me thank YOU!
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?
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.
When it rains, we cover our kids; cover our cookies; cover our prizes; cover ourselves; take cover – and check the map for the next stop.
Then we go out again and make a big splash.
A child’s joy is truly timeless.
I spied this sweet “Bovine and Brotherly Love” scene with Kayla,19, and Danny,12, of Washington County. Kids, colors, cows – and bib overalls – are all super-sized at the Minnesota State Fair.
These are the adventures of the Starship….
It’s always (MN) nice when the Minnesota State Fair uses a photo of mine. This, from their Facebook page. And, once again, big thanks to the Minnesota Women’s Press for featuring my photo “I’m All Butter Fingers,” along with an article about my State Fair Photography. And this is just the start of going Beyond The Stick at The 2014 Minnesota State Fair!
Am I blue? Yes, and I’m sure you are, too, with the advent of the ‘razing’ (a strong word, as reported in various media, for a feeble village and its tender-hearted fans) of old, funky Heritage Square, starting ‘immediately after the end of the Fair.’ The shopkeepers agree that it is needed; their pioneer storefronts are being held up with tape and tar paper. They are, by and large, optimistic about the new and improved Heritage Square, although they don’t know where they will be located, or even if they are coming back. For now, they remain in the dark, as they close their shops to make way for the bulldozers.
Thank you, Heritage Square, for offering up years of photos rich with character, and characters. Like big-hearted, tiny Tammy, the maintenance woman who took such pride in ‘her’ sliver of a mustard-yellow bathroom in Heritage Square, welcoming everyone with a radio blasting country music, cooling fans, a door sign that said: “Tammy’s Place”, a hug for me – and a paper towel handed to you.
We are looking forward to more of Tammy, and that spirit of Heritage Square, but better.
And I’m sure you saw even more of the same. Or different. The point is, there’s more.
To say the least.
Ella, 8, shows us us to grab life with all you’ve got.
We’ve got another a-Fair to remember.
Meet you there!