James Lileks: What's a fair ticket price for summer's last hurrah?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2011 - 6:18 PM
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2010 Minnesota State Fair. Daring riders were flipped upside down on the Rock It ride at the midway.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Some of us like to think of the State Fair not as the end of summer's play, but its long final act. We are, of course, kidding ourselves. Be glad it comes when it does; other states have summers that meander to September, dribble out the last days with resignation, and end without ceremony. We blow up the sky with fireworks on the last night, a brash happy challenge to fall: Top that, pal.

The fair's still a fortnight out, but news is already starting to trickle in, whetting our appetites, piquing our interest, and making us grab our wallets and shriek: WHAT? Because the price of a child's admission has gone up two dollars to a full sawbuck.

A lot of people misread the story at first and thought it said they'd bumped the price from two dollars to 10, and by "a lot" I mean me. But I'm such a fair apologist I began to justify it. Hey, it's a 10-hour 3D movie that doesn't need glasses! Sure, you can't afford as much food, but you can look at it! (Federal dietary guidelines recommend that you stare at less than 360 mg of sodium per day, though.) If you've less money for the rides, put 'em on the Zipper and pay the carny five bucks to run it three times as long; the kids will be done with rides. For years.

Still, this 40 percent hike seems steep. And the definition of "adult" for ticket purposes begins at 13, which wasn't even the standard for adulthood in medieval times when life expectancy was 26. Wondering what the money's going for? A fair spokesman said it helps with building improvements and maintenance. It's not cheap to keep those aging structures from crumbling. Just as long as they don't "improve" everything so much they lose the character of the ages in which they were built; the charm of the fair is the accumulation of different architectural styles, and I'm laughing at the math nerds who stopped reading at that "40 percent hike" assertion, put down the paper, and started banging out a blistering e-mail about the poor state of math education today.

No one likes a price hike, but it's the fair. What's the alternative? Make the kiddies stand on each other's shoulders and wear a trench coat that makes them look like one adult? Warning: Tickets for people over 6 feet have increased by $16.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at www.startribune.com/popcrush.

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