For 158 years, the Minnesota State Fair has lured a crowd as a purveyor and exhibitor of the new — new crops, critters, devices, food, fun. This year's Great Minnesota Get-Together, which opens today and runs through Labor Day, will be no exception. Its new attractions are numerous enough to warrant their own webpage, and probably can keep a seasoned fairgoer freshly occupied through an entire day's visit.
But at a time when Minnesotans report feeling disoriented by the pace of change and dismayed by the intensity of disputes within the American family, we suspect that for many, the appeal of the 2017 State Fair lies less in what's new than in what's familiar. Though ever-evolving, this homegrown event conveys a comforting consistency as it reminds Minnesotans of how much they have in common.
We know of no better place than the State Fair for Minnesotans to witness that this state's well-being is rooted in both city and country. It's a fine place to appreciate the extraordinary skill and craft of otherwise ordinary Minnesotans doing their part to enrich the lives of others.
The fair is where the rich mosaic of culture and backgrounds that the Minnesota population has become is on display, shoulder to shoulder on Dan Patch Avenue on a weekend afternoon, inviting recognition and understanding. It's a multigenerational experience that celebrates both the continuing contributions of the old and the emerging talent of the young — even as it proves that many things (think Pronto Pups and the University of Minnesota marching band) have ageless appeal.
Politicians will be plying their trade at the fair, as usual. But we trust that as usual, the harshly divisive politics seen too often in today's America will not be much in evidence. The fair affords voters an increasingly rare opportunity to take the measure of candidates up close and in person, and encourages politicians to put their most winsome natures on display.
We hope the crowd-pleasing capacity that candidates hone over the next 12 days stays with them long after Labor Day. If it does, it will support our claim that the State Fair is an asset to participatory democracy — and for that reason, the familiar old fair may be more relevant this year than ever before.