Minnesota State Fair Competitions Through a Child's Eyes

Melissa Driscoll recounts her visit to the Minnesota State Fair, where she participated in the vegetable competition, bunked with other kids and learned a bit about independence.
By Melissa Driscoll
March/April 1982
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Melissa's winning entry at the county fair included carefully selected and displayed beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and some heads of cabbage.

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I've entered the county fair every year since I was 10 years old. I've been awarded the winner's right to go to the state contest each year, too . . . only at first I was too young to enter it! Finally, when I was 12, I won trips for both chicken and vegetable exhibits. I could only enter the state fair in one category, though, so I had to choose . . . and I decided to try my vegetables.

Mom paid a small fee to cover my food expenses, the Agriculture Extension Service mailed me a gate pass, and I was almost ready to go! However, since the state fair was a whole month after the county contest, some of my crops had stopped producing. Luckily, I'd helped Mom lots with her garden, so she let me harvest a few selections from the larger patch to go with my own pickings.

The Minnesota State Fair was so much fun that I just smile whenever I think of it. I'd never seen so many 4-H kids before. We all slept in two humongous rooms, one for boys and one for girls. When I first saw the rooms, all I could do was stare. Each one was bigger than my family's whole house (and then some) and was filled with triple bunk beds!

I soon became accustomed to the fair life of outdoor plays, animal showings, good food, fireworks, entertainment and independence. I loved having the responsibility of being on my own during my three-day stay. (Of course, there were rules there, such as lights out at 10:00 p.m. and lights on at 5:30 a.m.) I volunteered to help out in the kitchen, so every morning I got dressed as quickly as I could and helped serve those masses of sleepy, hungry, hardworking youngsters.

Because vegetables are perishable, they were judged on the first day of the fair. After that competition, I had the rest of the time off and was free to roam. And even though I didn't win that contest, I sure found out one thing: The state fair is a great place to be!

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