We’ll Do the State Fair Better Than You – Even in a Pandemic

It is August already!  How did that happen?

I want to feel that crisp smell in the air and watch the sun shadows shift….and I also don’t.

Everything is different this year.  The excitement of end-of-summer activities and school supply shopping are just not at all in the picture.  In all of our lives we’ve never experienced the weirdness that is this pandemic living.

One of the things we in Minnesota are going to miss this month is the Great Minnesota Get Together.  Our State Fair is spectacular.

We can’t go to it in person, but we CAN figure out ways to reminisce and still celebrate some of what the fair is all about.

Last year when we presented the “Sate Fair” theme for SongNotes, we had no idea we would be bringing it back around as a wistful reminder of what we are missing.  Rather than pine, though, I think this will be a fun trip.

First, some background.

Agricultural Fairs

Historically, the state fair concept is rooted in agriculture.  Agriculture is “the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock.”

With the purpose of inspiring its people to work the land and create a flourishing self-sufficient society, agricultural fairs were the ideal platform for strengthening a community’s economic potential.

Throughout much of our country, this is the perfect time of the year to gather and take pride in the beautiful things the region can claim as the result of its excellent land and people.

Competitions promote the efforts of plant and animal care for months leading up to the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Amateur and avid kitchen craftsmen perfect their recipes and submit the best option. Teachers and students of science, art, engineering, you-name-it, prepare exhibits that inspire others to become scientists, artists, engineers, farmers, chefs, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, and you-name-its.

Education | Competition | Entertainment | Religion

The three main components that are essential and characteristic of any fair are: Education, Competition, and Entertainment.

In its earliest practices around the world, these agricultural fairs had a religious component to them, more so than the fairs we recognize today in America. (Latin Agricola means “farmer” and feria means “free day” or “holy day”)

As with most art forms, which had their roots in church and religious practices, over time, the focus on religion has shifted toward entertainment, merchandising, and things that appeal to a wider audience than just church-goers.

Through our songs this month we will sample each of the four elements of the “agricultural fair.”

Each of the four songs will represent one of the following: Education, Competition, Entertainment, and – to honor the historical roots – Religion.

And, just for fun (because this is, after all, about the fair, so it had better be fun), there will be an agricultural assessment of each of the songs as well.  You’ll see what we mean.

Here’s the first example…

Song No. 1 | COMPETITION

Who gets the blue ribbon?
Who gets honorable mention?
Who wins the contest?
Who can chop a log the fastest?
Whose cow is the prettiest?
Whose pumpkin is the biggest?
How’s your marksmanship?
Can you shoot the target?
Can you knit a sweater?
Can you bake a pie?
Can you name this tune?

“Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” from Annie Get Your Gun, the 1946 musical by Irving Berlin, has become a favorite of the American musical theater repertoire.  The comical banter between Frank Butler and Annie Oakley stems from their competitive natures that mask their budding romance.

In the recording below, you will see and hear Nathan perform the duet with our recurring collaborator and friend Christy Jones.

AGRICULTURAL SCORE:  8
partridge (never mind that these are not found anywhere in North America.  They’re Birds; they should get two points.)
sparrow (get that bow and arrow ready)
bread (from beautiful midwestern wheat)
cheese (even if this isn’t about Wisconsin)
rat (delicacy OR pet – dual purpose!)
liquor (made from backyard heirloom hops, no doubt)
sweater (which was obviously made with local wool)
pie (made with local berries, apples, or pumpkins)

Whether you plan to go find some of the travelling state fair food trucks, or visit some smaller local festivals, or frequent the neighborhood farmers’ markets, we hope you are able to take some time away to acquire some new skills, smile at a funny entertainer, worship in the beauty of creation, and try to have some fun learning and practicing anything you can do better.