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.
Melissa's winning entry at the county fair included carefully selected and displayed beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and some heads of cabbage.
CYNTHIA B. DRISCOLL
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!