File photo: State Fair goers waited in line the Mini-Donuts booth.

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Lileks: Four ideas in one column? Ready, set, go!

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • February 7, 2014 - 12:50 AM

The greatest, best, most incredible news of 2014 broke on a hard, cold February afternoon: The State Fair is raising the ticket price by a dollar.

Marketing students, take note: This is how you do it. Not the day before. Not the week before. Months before. In the middle of winter. On a Wednesday. Because for fair enthusiasts, they read it like this:

State Fair admission dollar something something — ohhhh, mini-doughnuts and cute piglets and the way you walk into the horticulture building on a hot day into the cool shade, and look up at the atrium that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the Emerald City. Summer suddenly feels like it’s been going on all year and fall sounds like something you’re open to discussing, but now? There’s seed art. Let’s go.

The whole “extra dollar” part gets lost, doesn’t it?

Then again, that doesn’t always work. This is not the time for the Vikings to say “a bratwurst will be $47 in the new stadium,” hoping people will forget by the time the stadium opens and will be so excited by the sparkling new venue that they’re perfectly OK with paying $9 for “temporary seat licenses” in the restroom stalls. Of course, they could put iPad-based e-pulltabs in the stalls so you could gamble while you pass the time, although, I’m not sure hoots and whoops of victory is a sound you want to hear in this context.

Then again, pulltabs don’t always work the way their proponents would like. There’s talk of expanding e-pulltabs at the airport — well, certainly can’t contract them anymore: E-pulltab revenues at the airport last year were $8,000. Eight. Grand. They make more selling four pizzas. Of course, that’s all the more reason to expand the program, right? If they mounted iPads on the moving walkways and repainted the lanes to read WALK and GAME, people might drop a few dollars between gates. It’s an unexplored opportunity.

Then again, people might want to save their gaming for the airport bars, which need more local flavor. Like a new 400 bar! You might have heard that the 400 Bar will be revived at the Mall of America. For those who forgot: It was a West Bank institution roughly the size of the glove box in a Mini Cooper; technically, it was out of compliance with the “maximum capacity” sign when the bartender was all alone but thinking of someone else. On good nights, about 65,936 people could fit inside, and it was worth it: You were so close to the band that the people at the far back got windburn just from the guitarist’s strumming.

A fabled dive. But a Mall of America attraction? It’ll be authentic only if they include one key detail. I lived on the same block as the 400 for a year, and remember the first night: About 1 a.m. they dumped the beer bottles in the dumpster, a sound of clattering shattering crashing glass that jerked me awake. And I lived on the 17th floor.

Eventually you got used to it. But to be truly authentic, the MOA 400 Bar should play the sound of a million bottles smashing into the bin, and wake up everyone at the hip chic Radisson Blu hotel across the street. Because that’s authentic. That’s the city.

Then again, that doesn’t always work — reviving one brand name in another locale, I mean. I’m worried about the Mayo Clinic going into Block E because it’s cursed. The site was once the home to the notorious Moby Dick’s Bar, a place whose patrons engaged in such concerted liver demolition that the hangover persists to this day, and gives everyone who enters a headache. That’s one possible explanation for Block E’s failure. I fear that the same fate will befall the Wolves and the Mayo will suffer the same fate as the original tenants, dropping off one by one.

Mayo will suffer crippling financial reversals until it’s reduced to a guy in a white coat at a freeway ramp in Rochester, handing out Band-Aids and aspirin.

But will he take MNsure? Because that’s not working out so well. New story: They’re hiring lots of people to answer the phone. Hmm. You really don’t want to have to call tech support in the middle of a kidney stone attack. “Thank you for calling MNsure technical support for kidney-stone payment sign-up. To scream incoherently in English, press one. Para en Español, numéro dos. To play voice-assisted e-pulltabs while you wait, press three. To hear Kevin Kling read the entire text of “War and Peace” while you wait, press nine.”

No, that hasn’t worked out so well either, but that’s life — always an eyelash in the ointment. So take out a dollar. Spread it out on the table. That’s how much more the fair, apotheosis of summer will cost you this year. Look out the window, check the temps. Worth every penny, right? Can’t wait.

Note: Avoid the poutine and apple pie if you’re going on the coaster that takes really sharp turns. Trust me. That worked out as well as shoving four ideas in one column. • 612-673-7858

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