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Lileks: State Fair makes a place for smokers

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • August 24, 2013 - 11:45 PM

The man at the State Fair was standing with a map in his hands and a troubled look on his face. I asked if I could help.

“Looking for the smoking area,” he said. “It’s supposed to be here, but I don’t see it. Is it here?”

I looked around; no one was smoking. The map had the telltale smoking icon by the barns, which makes sense, if you absolutely hate the smell.

Cigarettes vs. manure! Let ’em fight it out.

“I don’t want a cop to arrest me,” he said. As he looked around the area, full of people who were just not smoking everywhere, he had the look of a man weighing the time he’d do.

Only later did I realize: There’s designated smoking areas now? This means that people used to be able to walk around and smoke at the fair — which, according to modern society, is like permitting people to coat themselves with roofing tar and set themselves ablaze, as long as they extinguish themselves before going indoors.

Never seemed to be a problem, though. Either most fairgoers don’t smoke, or they’d resigned themselves to not lighting up in the presence of non-consenting adults. On the way into the fairgrounds, I saw a woman standing at a distance from the ticket booth, holding a cigarette in either hand; either she was getting it all done before she went in, or was holding it from someone who knew enough not to puff while in line. Minnesota Nice suggests the latter.

I found a designated area just by closing my eyes and listening for throaty chuckles. It’s by the new bathrooms, over near the poultry barn. A man was complaining about it. “Used to be A FREE COUNTRY,” he said. A woman seated next to the big ashtray nodded. “They banned it in STURGIS,” he said — home of the Harley rally! Sturgis, S.D. She nodded. He finished and left.

“I don’t mind,” she said to herself. I asked her what she meant. “Oh — well, if you’re going to do it, why not have a place where no one else can complain about what you’re doing?”

A better motto for the fair you can’t imagine.

 

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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