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16h UTC; SATURDAY, 31 AUGUST 2013: Well, Your Correspondent IS back at last.

As in back from his annual (shall we say) pilgrimage to The Great Minnesota Get-Together, otherwise known as the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. Which itself wilted, in some measure, from record-breaking heat as cut into the attendance numbers (and sent nearly 100 fairgoers in toto to hospital for heat-related illnesses), saw misting stations opened at strategic locations on the State Fairgrounds--and bottled water (Dasani in particular) being the beverage of choice at concessionaire stands (even for Your Correspondent, who was recommended it as his "one for the road" on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, in the former instance by one of the staff at the Tom Thumb Donuts stand over by Ag-Hort and the Foods Building considering the heat).

Still, though, Your Correspondent did manage to get some water intake in him to get through the heat.

Tuesday evening's visit, soon after arriving at my traditional bivouac therefor in form of the Midway Motel on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, saw me taking supper at a fish-and-chips shop in the Food Building in form and fashion of crab cakes, chips--and a large Diet Coke (pre-diabeetus, you know). And given the diminished crowds from the heat, the atmospherics across the State Fairgrounds, while not eerie, proved rather enchanting when viewed from the SkyGlider's perspective (by way of the 4-H Building and the Arts Centre, two favourites of the fair's gopher mascots, Fairchild and Fairborne; in the former instance, celiac disease seemed to be the hot topic of the moment for 4-H exhibitors, with at least five such thus devoted--including one involving an attempt to make gluten-free English muffins "from scratch.")

Equally enchanting, in its own way, is the smoke coming off the grill from the Butcher Boys stand, as serves up London broil sandwiches that turn out being rather moist, tasty and even running rings around more conventional shaved roast beef such. Even with grilled onions and peppers as a topper. (Said smoke drifting in its own way over the State Fairgrounds around the Grandstand area.)

Too, there was some shopping as got completed: A souvenir T-shirt, a couple packets of Cream of Wild Rice soup mix (which I hope to fix in my slow cooker), a Pearson's Nut Goodie--not much else.

Coming in early on Wednesday morning, custom (and those gopher mascots' tastes) directed me to breakfast at The Peg, "the only full-service eatery on the State Fairgrounds" on the outside of Ag-Hort ... and The Peg Muffin, a somewhat legendary (if messy) breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg, tomato and cheese on a toasted English muffin. Washed down with a large iced tea. Followed by another mascot favourite, those fruit-filled scones from French Meadow Bakery (I took the peach such, which happens to be flash-frozen to maintain freshness at its utmost).

And some poutine from Duke's, a little later on in the morning.

Even if most of the exhibit buildings don't open till 9 in the morning, at least you manage to get an opportunity for some serious walking around ... which continued when the commercial exhibits "under the Grandstand" (known colloquially as Varied Industries) opened at 9, eventually allowing moi to pick up my annual Televac Personality Analysis, a maple meat snack stick and a 2014 calendar (which, after some debate to myself, led to one of those featuring Gary Patterson's feline whimsicalia).

Meanwhile, making my traditional patronage of the mascots during their "meet-and-greet" sessions, I couldn't help but notice where Fairborne (who turns 30 this year) now has blue stripes on his showman's jacket and a blue band on the straw hat; the better to avoid long-standing confusion with his uncle Fairchild (as still wears green stripes). And they can get incredibly silly welcoming visitors old and new, and posing for photos (not to mention be rather impressed at some of the discoveries made by yours truly, particularly so at the 4-H exhibits they just love). Lunchtime followed: a wild-rice cheeseburger and waffle fries, with a large birch beer on the side ... followed not long afterward by a Farmers' Union Frappe from their ur-coffee house in the Minnesota Farmers' Union building. Not even your ice-cream headaches can rival those from a frappe.

(Did I mention also buying some Sham-Wow towelling on a "twofer" offer, one set of which was gifted to the motel I do for?)

Following supper at the Hamline Church's dining hall on their storied ham loaf (with bread pudding for dessert), Your Correspondent set out for this year's raison d'etre of his visit: None other than the Internet Cat Video Festival, my first Grandstand experience there. Even with inspection of my shopping bags by security before coming in, I managed to find my seat--front-and-center, first row on the main plaza; credit that to my buying one of the first tickets therefor when they went on sale online. And there was no doubt hilarity ensuing galore throughout--except, however, when two of the biggest stars of the online cat-video genre, Li'l Bub and Grumpy Cat (and their handlers), showed up on stage concurrently. Luckily, no catfights or Katzenjammer between the two ensued (even when Grumpy Cat's original video took home the festival's highest honour, the Golden Cat; five others, including such classics as Nyan Cat, the Japanese sensation Maru, and Keyboard Cat, took home Hall of Fame awards).

(To explain Grumpy Cat's perennial scowl, it's because Tardare Sauce--to use her real name--has a cleft lip.)

And in line with the Minnesota State Fair's long-established tradition of butter sculpture (which actually predates the facial likenesses of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court making such an institution rivalled only by the Iowa State Fair's own Butter Cow), the same sculptress who's responsible for the Princess Kay likenesses also contributed a cat sculpted out of a block of butter. (Which, incidentally, was a composite of several cats she was acquainted with. And a male, may I add.)

In case you were wondering about some of the funnier specimens of online feline video among the audience during the actual screening, they included:
  • A trio of Egyptian sphinx cats swaying their heads to the beat of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik."
  • A cat perched atop a closet storage box poking away at an outside window for awhile, eventually crashing through same to the outside, and tapping away therefrom.
  • Stop-motion animation showing a rather furry cat riding on a briefcase across the floor and the dining-room table.
  • A cat dolled up in a shark costume, riding atop a Roomba vacuum all the while, trying to chase a duckling across the floor--until a dog in like costume joins in the hijinks.
  • The aforementioned Maru's hijinks, wiggling his way through an empty box to the point of stuffing himself therein, a la Schrodinger's Cat ... until the box broke up on him. (A Hall of Fame winner, know.)
  • An ur-Saturday Night Live sketch about a young couple unintentionally getting cats with the bedding and appliances they ordered through the IKEA catalogue, and the store explaining that such were clearance items. (Itself calling to mind a Monty Python sketch about unintentional bonus gifts being added to such purchases as dung with three Book-of-the-Month Club selections, a dead Indian with a new gas oven and the M4 motorway with two cartons of coffee cream.)
(Incidentally, Animal Planet streamed the proceedings live across Teh Innerwebz.)

The traditional end-of-Grandstand-performance fireworks display essentially made it a night--along with two bottles of Dasani water through the evening's course.

Luckily, though, this closing weekend of TGMnGT 2013
(it closes on Labour Day, know) should turn out being rather pleasant and not as humid as earlier on, which saw the misting stations rather popular and going overtime with hot and weary visitors. But it wouldn't hurt to leave early in the morning if you want to beat the expected crowds on the last two days, with Labour Day proper, the Fair's closing day, also seeing some "last chance" value-for-money offers from some of the retailers there.

(Meanwhile, save the dates of 21 August-1 September 2014, inclusive, as those of the next such TGMnGT. As well as those of 27 August-7 September 2015 ... 25 August-5 September 2016 ... and 24 August-4 September 2017.)


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