By Richard Peterson
I took another big vacation last week from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning. Since I missed the ND State Fair because of the press of business, I decided to treat myself to a trip to the Minnesota State Fair, located about halfway between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
I wanted my sweetie to come along, but she thinks fairs are for juveniles and flat-out refused. "Grow up!" she advised. She encouraged me to go by commenting, "You’ll probably be mugged." I showed her. I returned fat and sassy and unmugged.
My adventure began Wednesday at about 11:45 p.m. at the Amtrak Station in Devils Lake. Because this is almost four hours past my normal bedtime, I was pretty pooped by the time the train pulled out of the station. After all, I had been up since 4 a.m. that day.
The young woman I slept with on the train must have been a veteran traveler because she went to sleep right away. I slept fitfully in seat 54. She slept soundly in seat 53.
Cost of the round trip ticket was $86.70. The trip encompassed 346 miles over a period of seven hours and 20 minutes to the Amtrak Station in the Twin Cities. The train made stops at Grand Forks, Fargo, Detroit Lakes, Staples and St. Cloud before arriving at the Amtrak Station at a little after 7 a.m. I was surprised that the train was on time. While traveling into the Twin Cities, it was light enough to see the cars on the four lane highway beside the railroad tracks. It seemed we were traveling rather slowly, but I suddenly realized that the train was passing all the cars.
The Amtrak Station is located about four miles south of the fair and the first thing I did was check my backpack at the Amtrak Station to pick up later in the day. The guys at the Amtrak Station were very helpful and accommodating. They gave me a map of the bus and light rail system, told me to hike about a quarter of a mile south to the bus stop and board bus 16 to Snelling Ave. and then transfer to bus
84 to get to the fair. It was simple. I studied the map and got a feel for the system.
Bus fares are reasonable. During non-rush hours the fare is $1.75 for adults. This allows the traveler 2.5 hours of unrestricted travel.
During rush hours (Monday-Friday from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6:30 p.m.) the fare is $2.25 for adults. Those of us who have passed the magic age of 65 get an even better deal. During non-rush hours the cost of
2.5 hours of riding on the bus is 75c. What a deal! During rush hours we senior citizens have to pay the full fare of $2.25. I always made sure to travel during non-rush hours and saved a bundle. The bus system is wonderful. You don’t have to worry about fighting traffic or finding a parking space.
Admission to the fair was $11 per day, but Thursday was seniors day and we old people were charged $6. It pays to get old. Even though it was only about 9 a.m., there was already a huge crowd at the fair.
Attendance the three days I was at the fair was 122,732 on Thursday,
155,805 on Friday and 207,075 on Saturday. Admission Friday and Saturday was pooped up to $9 for seniors. Although the cost is nothing to sneeze at, the price of admission is worth it when you consider all the free stages with entertainment.
Everything at the fair was overpriced. I noted that a 20 oz. soda pop went for $4 and a turkey leg was $8. A 20 oz. beer was $6.25.
My first meal was shrimp on a stick for $6. There were eight medium sized shrimp impaled on a stick and served on a bed of rice. The shrimp were spicy hot but the sauce was far too vinegary. Uff-da! I had some alligator fries at a Cajun stand. No it wasn’t what you think. It was deep fried potatoes, cut in the shape of alligators. It was good, as French fries always are. If I remember right the small basket of fries was $4.
Every kind of food imaginable was served on a stick. I noted that Ole and Lena’s stand served hotdish on a stick. No thanks, I get enough of that at funerals. I also passed up beer on a stick. This was a thin board with three holes in it that held three small plastic cups of beer. If I remember right, the cost was $7.
One stand featured bacon on a stick for $3. This was a bargain because the bacon was about 3/8" thick and about a foot long. Boy, was that good! The second one I ate was just as good. One stand featured "Yard on a Stick." This was a yardstick for $4. I passed on that one.
After tramping around the very crowded grounds for a few hours, I decided to ride the sky train. This consisted of a series of gondola cars which hold up to two adults and two kids suspended on a wire 100 to 150 feet above the fairgrounds. I took the round trip for $5 and really enjoyed the ride. Another $5 ride above the crowd was a similar contraption except the riders sit on a bench with their legs dangling down. This was a little more enjoyable because one was out in the beautiful weather.
Speaking of the weather, it just couldn’t have been better at home and in the Twin Cities. Daytime highs were in the high 70’s and nights were in the 60’s.
About 4 p.m. I decided to go to my hotel, the Radisson at the Mall of America and check in. I took an express bus from the fair to the mall. Cost was $5 paid at the mall. I didn’t pay at the mall and told the bus driver that, but he said just get on and ride. So I rode free.
I scoped out the location of the Radisson and walked around the mall for a couple hours. There’s lots to see there, but I didn’t buy anything I couldn’t put in my belly. For supper I chose Teriyaki chicken at Maki of Japan in the food court. Vegetables and noodles accompanied the chicken for $4.99. What a bargain! And was it good!
I was full and pooped out, but I had to hike about half a mile to the Radisson. When I got there I learned I could have caught a courtesy bus which leaves the mall at 20 minutes to the hour. I went to bed early because I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep on the train the night before and I must’ve walked 10 miles or more during the day.
(Continued next week)