The Thursday before Labor Day weekend, we flew to Minnesota on a 6:00 a.m. flight. Easy flight, Thrifty rental minivan, and a breakfast stop at El Burrito Mercado for burritos, sopes, guisados, conchas, and some hot-and-salty tamarind-watermelon fruit roll-ups and tamarind-filled hot-and-salty guava lollipops, and we were still at Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's house by well before noon, managing to get a Culver's frozen custard and cheese curd snack in in the afternoon and a family dinner and meet-Jocie's-baby party in that night. Friday we went out on White Bear Lake with both Uncle Frank and Uncle Michael's boats and did fireworks behind Uncle Frank's house; Saturday we went to the State Fair; Sunday we did all-you-can-eat sushi, Topgolf, MN Nice Cream and s'mores at Uncle Frank's firepit; and Monday we went to Hmong Village and had one last family dinner before flying home. In between there were lots of tractors, in specific, and vehicles of all sorts, and lots and lots of cousins.
Since the Fair was a highlight, let's start there--two different group shots at the fair, near the ferris wheel and near the corn:
Helen sleeping through cheesecurds, and the girls posing with Mitch's friend at the end of the day:
Angelina had heard about the Swedish egg coffee from her bus driver, heading into the fair in the morning; he raved about it as purer and "more coffee-flavored" than regular coffee. When she mentioned it to me (while Uncle Michael was walking over a mile back to his car to retrieve his forgotten coupon book, and while Robert and Marcus were in an interminable line for a video game competition), I was of course in, so we trekked over to the Hamline church dining hall (one of only two church dining halls left on the fair grounds) where her driver had said we could find it. I had heard good things about their hamloaf, too, so I was definitely game. We walked up to their building and I studied the menu on the side. No coffee. "I'm sure that's just because it's such a given," said Angelina. I was willing to believe that. In we went, and stood in a decently long line only to discover that we were 15 minutes too early for the hamloaf. Fine. I told the server we just wanted coffe, so she waved us to the end of the line, still holding our trays optimistically. "Two coffees," I told the older woman. "Uh, that's the Swedish egg coffee, right?" I added, as she seemed about to pour what appeared to be totally normal coffee out of a normal, unmarked pot. She froze mid-air with the coffee pot, and positively harumphed at me. "We don't serve that here!" she snapped. "That's the Lutherans. We're the Methodists, we don't serve that egg coffee--we just have good coffee!" I put down our trays. We walked out, retraced our steps back the way we came and went further up to the Lutherans. They advertised their Swedish egg coffee front and center, so we ordered two coffees and a giant cinnamon bun. While Samantha and Helen gave the bun rave reviews, Angelina thought the coffee tasted like...uh, just regular cafeteria-grade coffee. Uncle Michael wandered over and she gave him a taste and quizzed him on it. He found the method intriguing, but said that maybe it would be better "if they started with better coffee." Robert finally had his coffee when it was cold, after the long video game thing, but agreed with the consensus.
While Angelina sipped her coffee, the girls explored a little eco-friendly play area, which was fun. In general, Helen loved the little things about the fair--picture-posing boards, the math area, the alphabet area, and of course also the doggy-themed rollercoaster she got to go on with Samantha.
Everyone (of course) loved the giant slide, and we also had fun at the free Driscoll's berries booth--your pick of berry skewers, lemonade, or smoothie.
Vehicles. Again. Probably Samantha's favorite were the little tractors at the right here, part of a kids' farming exhibit staffed by Girl Scouts, where they measured your height in terms of chickens. Thankfully, Helen was just over two chickens tall and Samantha a shade under four chickens tall, so they both qualified for the tractors. They also got to pick apples, plant seeds, harvest vegetables, milk cows, sell their produce at the farmers' market, get paid, and then trade in their play money for actual snacks (gummies, etc.) in the general store at the end.
The antique tractor exhibit (still more vehicles) was fun, and we happened upon a perfect spot to watch the parade. Angelina, Samantha, and I also had a great time in the bean-and-corn artwork section of one of the buildings (where I also got $1.50 cider freezepops that Robert loved).
Helen walked a ton, but three-year-old legs are still no match for thirteen hours at the fair!
Last year Marcus's class in school studied American folktales and then wrote a stage adaptation of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, performing it for some kindergarteners, so he was pretty pleased to see "his" characters standing near the fair entrance.
I loved this mural, which I think was new this year: union sentiment, Rosie-the-Riveter echoes, amazing colors, and awesome scale.
On Friday night at Uncle Frank's house, Samantha orchestrated a complicated game of rolling downhill, then sliding on a slide downhill, and got cousin Gracie (5) to join in with her and Helen. They had a lot of fun on Uncle Frank's back lawn.
The rest of the weekend, whenever there was any downtime, someone was driving a John Deere something down the back.
Right after we arrived on Thursday, Uncle Frank donned his bee gear to go out and deal with some bees near the side of the house. Marcus taped his gloves on for him.
Dinner consisted of playing "pass the baby" around with little baby Houston. He was just three days old and very sweet.
Jocie left Houston inside with her mom to join the rest of us on a hayride down the back. Here are the closest cousins in age, minus Wyatt who was in California, all cuddled up for the hayride. Most of the time Marcus flew his drone over and around the wagon. Everyone (except Robert and Camille, who apparently share their poor night vision) saw a buck over to the right of the tractor as we drove along the back, and that was pretty neat.
The lake on Friday was beautiful--sunny, warm but not too hot, lots of fish to catch and lots of snacks that Aunt Martha packed to eat along the way.
Saturday golf was also neat--Uncle Michael talked us all into two adjoining lanes with couches, so Jocie could sit comfortably with Houston asleep in his carriage next to her for most of the time (and, ironically, Helen asleep in my sling for the entire time). The kids got tips on their swings from Dan and Mark and Michael, and we ordered appetizers and all shared and enjoyed.
After golf we all caravaned over to ice cream, for wild rainbow banana cones filled with soft-serve, roasted marshmallows, mini donuts, chunks of cookie dough, and edible glitter on all of it (the store advertises free glitter on every ice cream). I asked the guy what percentage of people take him up on the offer of free glitter. "Not that many," he said. "Maybe 20%." Whoa! I told him I would've thought it would be reversed, at least, and I emphasized that we wanted glitter on all the cones in our complicated (very complicated) ten-cone order.
Across the street was Uncle Franky's hot dog and hamburger joint! Sadly we were all stuffed so didn't take a detour inside.
At Hmong Village the next day, our only regret was that we had a finite amount of stomach space, in between hotel breakfast and Aunt Martha's dinner, but we did get some boba drinks, a mangonada, a beautiful fried fish with sauce, lots of sweet rice crepes and cakes and sweets (all helpfully gluten-free for Angelina), and a big porky bao for Samantha. The girls also used their spending money from Pop-pop and Grandma to buy little rainbow stuffed ponies in one of the myriad shop stalls.
Finally, a few shots from the airport train and our hotel, where Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha joined us for breakfast one day and admired the pancake machine.
See you next year, Minnesota!
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Created: 9/23/19. Last Modified: 9/23/19.