The biggest thing at the State Fair Wednesday was the smallest, grumpiest, thing at the State Fair.
Internet sensation Grumpy Cat looked dourly out over a beaming crowd of admirers in the Agriculture Building. Fuzzy face set in a permanent scowl, the little cat has racked up millions of hits on YouTube and will draw thousands of people to the State Fair Grandstand at 7 p.m. for the second annual Internet Cat Video Festival.
Grumpy Cat will headline this year's festival, along with fellow YouTube giant Lil Bub, and the people who brought you Henri le Chat Noir, Nyan Cat, Keyboard Cat, An Engineer's Guide to Cats, and three solid hours of internet cat videos and cat-related entertainment.
(Go ahead and click on all those links. We'll wait.)
Last year, more than 10,000 people, and their cats, turned out to participate in the first Internet Cat Video Festival. But why would anyone come out in the middle of one of the hottest state fair weeks on record to watch cat videos that they could watch at home for free, in the air conditioning?
“It's not watching the cat videos. It's watching the cat videos with other people," said Mark Brown, who visits the Minnesota State Fair every year with Rock-It, the dancing Robot. "You get your nerd on...It justifies your nerdism."
Brown managed to snag a photo with Grumpy Cat, which had already been posted to Facebook by the time the cat had left the building. He and the robot travel the country with two cats and he said he enjoys the opportunity to hang out with other Cat People.
"Everybody's got their thing, whether it's collecting stamps or throwing a frisbee with your dog. In our case, it's as many cat shirts and cat pillows and cats as the landlord will allow," said Brown, who once drove 3,000 miles from his Raleigh, N.C., home to adopt a cat from a rescue in Utah.
So, what was it like to meet Grumpy Cat in the..fur?
"I was respectful, I did not touch Grumpy Cat, I was aware that cats have immune systems like everyone else, so I only stood close to the cat," he said, displaying a photo of the two, side by side. Brown is smiling. Grumpy cat is not. "I was just there to bask in Tardar Sauce's little glory."
Tardar Sauce is Grumpy Cat's real name. And despite her permanent, hilarious, scowl, the little cat faced the boiling heat and excited crowds with the calm of a zen master. She was born with congenital defects -- feline dwarfism and an underbite -- that combined to launch her career as an internet celebrity.
"She just has a really interesting face," said Tardar Sauce's owner, Tabatha Bundesen, trying to explain Grumpy Cat's clickability. "She looks grumpy, she really isn't though."
Thousands and thousands of people are coming to the fair tonight to see this cat tonight. Millions and millions have watched her on YouTube. Why? Maybe Grumpy Cat speaks to the grump within all of us.
"Everybody has that instance every single day when they kind of feel grumpy, and this face takes away all the pain," Bundesen said.
The Internet Cat Video Festival kicks off at 7 tonight at the State Fair Grandstand. Tickets are $10 and available here. For those who can't make it to the fairgrounds, Animal Planet will carry the event.