Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to Spend an Entire Day at the Wisconsin State Fair

Milwaukee is chock full of Summer festivals and fairs, but there’s none bigger and more fun than the Wisconsin State Fair. It’s the only event that can be enjoyed from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and at least once a year I make an honest effort to enjoy it for 15 hours straight!

Here’s my suggestion for the best way to make the most of a day at the Fair. Start at the north end but skip the midway. Meander slowly through the barns and exhibits while taking in the sheep, horses, goats, pigs, cows, rabbit, chickens and ducks. This is a cool area to meet some Wisconsin’s next generation--I always marvel at these hard-working kids from all over the state who make the annual pilgrimage to Milwaukee to show off their best efforts.

One place where you can easily lose an hour is the Farm & Family Building. With a group of other adults and kids we watched a chick hatch from its first peck at the shell until she walked up to the glass wall of the bulb-heated incubator and said “Hello!” to the world. This was a little bit like watching grass grow, but it was well worth the wait when the exhausted little bird finally broke completely out of the shell to cheers of “Happy Birthday!” for all that waited for her arrival.

If you plan your route just right, by the time you make it out of the barns it’ll be lunchtime and time for a beer (well, maybe it was time for a beer a few hours earlier, but we all have our own choices to make). There’s always the weird, gross and exotic foods to try (bacon-wrapped deep-fried Oreo on a stick? No thanks.) and I’ve tried them a bunch, but for my buck, I stick to the classics: an Italian sausage sandwich slathered with peppers at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, jerk chicken
sandwich at Tropics or Mexican corn at Margarita Express.

By now you’ve made your way to the heart of the Fair--my favorite part. This is where one can really lose themselves. Find a place in the warm sun, refresh yourself with Milwaukee’s favorite adult beverage and sing along to some cover band absolutely nailing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (As far as you care, anyway.) Hours can slip away quickly here as you engage in a friendly game of State Fair Bingo. As in, tank-topped mullet guy at 6 o’clock. B! and pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. I! It doesn’t take too long to spell BINGO at least 3 or 4 times in an hour.

Meander properly and you’ll soon find yourself at State Fair’s favorite watering hole: The Micro. The Micro is sponsored by one of Milwaukee’s longest establishment dedicated to the art of craft brewing: Benno’s. Enjoy one or two here but heed warning: these are stronger ales than you’ll get elsewhere at the fair! (Trust me.) And if you’re lucky enough to get the last beer out of a barrel, you’ll be awarded with a KEG KILLER t-shirt!

After leaving The Micro, you’ll be feeling fine. Where to go from here is a wildcard. You could head further south to the Exposition Center where hucksters are shilling mops, metal polishers and knives that can cut a

coffee table in half. I like this area, but it can be crowded and I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

For us, however, the place to go at 6 o’clock is back north to Saz’s where every night the incomparably fun Bobby Friss Band plays every night. Oh man, I’ve rocked away the hours here. Mr. Friss IS the guy that nails every song that he covers. You’ll be holding your beer and singing “What a Whole Lotta Love” like you’re in the front row of a Led Zeppelin reunion concert (like that’ll ever happen). Too. Much. Fun.

By the time Friss rocks you, you’ll be quite exhausted and it’ll be about time to call it a night. Use your Uber or Lyft app to call for a ride and make your way out of the park. Along the way, don’t forget to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a goat. They’re pretty good listeners and there are a few goats currently living in Shiocton that know more about me than my own family. (Hey, it’s been a long day!)

The 2014 Wisconsin State Fair, enjoy it!

P.S. - a full album of my unedited pictures from the Fair can be viewed here.

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