This was supposed to be the summer of sleepaway camp.
What 9-year-old Kristen got instead was a box in the mail — Camp in a Box! — and a Zoom call from a herd of goats.
By 2020 standards, that’s a pretty good day.
“It’s not a true replacement for the joy of getting to sleep in a cabin and get dirty and not have your parents around for a week,” said Kristen’s mom, Julie Kosbab. “But she’s been enjoying it.”
In the middle of this virtual summer, it was a chance for actual fun.
The Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys packed a surprising amount of summer camp into those boxes. Shirts to tie-dye, knot-tying kits, craft projects to last for days.
“They made a mermaid pillow for one of their crafts, they made a unicorn headband,” Kosbab said. “Tomorrow they are making a fairy garden” from flower pots, succulents and decorative plastic fairies.
In the evenings, the Scouts gather around their glowing screens, with s’mores hot from the microwave, and sing silly campfire songs.
The summer of 2020 is what happened while we were busy scrapping other plans.
We wanted ballgames and blockbusters, get-togethers and getaways.
We got disease, death, social distance, injustice, unemployment, tear gas and murder hornets.
But for everything 2020 took from us, there were people working to give us something back.
We won’t get together at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year. But we’ll get a taste of it.
This is the sixth summer without a State Fair since 1859. When war, disease or scheduling conflicts got between Minnesotans and their fair, people usually found ways to salvage some of the fun.
World War II rationing and travel restrictions canceled the 1945 fair. So the canned goods judging relocated to Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis.
More than 106 exhibitors hauled their preserves and pickles to the department store, where the Minneapolis Morning Tribune awarded cash prizes to the best of the 854 entries.
This No Fair summer promises drive-through food parades at the fairgrounds that will let people load up on pails of Sweet Martha cookies (limit six) and Pronto Pups (limited only by your imagination and common sense).
“We know we can’t bring you the full experience,” said fair spokeswoman Danielle Dullinger. But it’s something.
People miss the fair so much, they’ve bought 165,000 disposable plastic Minnesota State Fair-branded cups with its logo, just so they can bring a little piece of it home. More cups are set to go on sale at the fairgrounds this week.
That’s not the only thing salvaging summer. America’s playing baseball again. The pros in empty stadiums. Little Leaguers outside, at a social distance.
“Had there been fans in the ballpark, it was a guy who bought the worst seat that would have gotten that souvenir,” the announcer crowed at the Yankees-Nationals game, as the season’s first home run landed, unclaimed, in the stands.
The seats were empty, but people at home cheered louder than the canned crowd noises they were piping into the ballpark. Baseball was back and summer felt like summer, just for a minute.
The Twins played and won before an attentive crowd of cardboard heads on Friday. The team is promising an even bigger crowd of even bigger heads for home games. Four-foot-tall celebrity cardboard heads to fill the seats behind home plate, because why not?
“Why not?” is the driving force behind the new boom in goat Zooms. Video conferencing with livestock isn’t just for Girl Scouts. An entire pandemic industry has sprung up, with names like “Goat 2 Meeting,” that lets you dial-a-critter to liven up your next office conference call.
If you prefer, for the low, low price of $75, you can Zoom with one of the eagles at the Minnesota Raptor Center.
“It just provides an injection of something different,” said Raptor Center executive director Julia Ponder, describing the new “Raptor Zoomie” initiative to the Star Tribune last week.
“We’ve had a couple of them in on some of our own staff meetings,” Ponder added. “You know, it just does something to be able to watch these birds doing their thing and vocalizing while we’re going through another Zoom meeting.”
In a year that’s offered virtually no fun, that actually sounds pretty good.