I don’t usually go to the State Fair alone. I can find something entertaining anywhere I go, but I enjoy things differently when I’m with people. Especially true at the Fair, I like to sample and taste and judge my way through with friends or family. I experience it differently based on whom I’m with; the niece and nephew like the Midway, my dad likes Machinery Hill, my foodie friends dissect the new cuisine.
This year, I went solo. On the schedule for the day, I knew I’d meet up with folks at Carnes and Liggett for the Sixth Annual Gay Day at the State Fair…and I planned to run into other friends later. But, for the first few hours, I ambled around on my own terms. Looking, observing, SWEATING. Goodness, that was a hot day with a relentless sun. I know—it was a summer Sunday. A perfect one, really.
As I wandered, I thought about all the people who were there for the unofficial Gay Day at the Fair. The dress code was hopeful—people were directed to get Vote NO shirts from Minnesotans United for All Families. Great idea. I scanned the crowds and saw one here and there. Wander, wander, wander—there’s one. Wander. Wander. Okay…there weren’t many. I was disheartened. There I was, taking a survey of a cross-section of our state. People as far as the eye could see and nary a Vote NO shirt on one of them. Was I looking at a representative sample of our state? God, I hope not.
With crumbs and cream of Ole’s Cannolis still on my lips, I checked the State Fair App for where the Minnesotans United for All Families stand was located so I could go get my own Vote NO shirt. Searching in “Merchandise,” I found out the stand was on Cooper, over by Dan Patch. These names make sense when looking at a State Fair map…or when being a really good pointer, as I found out.
Making my way to the little orange Vote NO booth was easier planned than done. Turns out, it had the longest line that I would stand in at the entire Fair. What a great problem to have! Here were my people! They were walking away with t-shirts and fans and buttons and stickers. When it was my turn to get my goods, I confirmed that what I’d heard was true—they didn’t have a t-shirt in my size. (I’ve told you before how I’m a large Nordic woman; it makes sense that I shop for dress shoes with the drag queens and could probably tussle over t-shirts with the bears.) I’m hopeful that they’ll order some larger shirts for the larger people—there are still two months left for us to wear them (and we make for more impressive walking billboards…I’m just saying). So, I dejectedly left with a Vote NO fan and went on my merry way.
Because of my Vote NO fan, I wasn’t really alone the rest of my time at the Fair. In the blazing sun, that fan was used and abused. No fewer than ten times, I was stopped and asked where I got the it. Each time, the person asking surprised me. An older woman, a younger couple, a punky kid who didn’t look like he should care. I got schooled just by letting myself notice who was noticing the Vote NO fans. I did a lot of pointing, a bit of showing on the map, and a whole lot of hand gesturing to show where Cooper is in relation to other landmarks.
As I was walking to the parking lot where I’d abandoned my Jeep earlier in the day, I was stopped one last time. This time, it wasn’t just surprise that halted me—I had to actually stop and understand what was going on. A woman in a scooter was signing to me. It took me a beat or two to realize it, but once I started watching her motions and reading her lips, it was clear that she was asking me where I got my Vote NO fan, though I don’t really know American Sign Language. I paused and tried to mouth the word clearly as I pointed yet again in the direction of “Cooper.” From her expression, it didn’t look like I’d conveyed it clearly. I tried again, “COOOOOPER.” Not louder, just more pronounced. Nope. Then it dawned on me. I sign-spelled “C-O-O-P-E-R.” She smiled and nodded. I don’t know how I remembered the alphabet that I learned in elementary school, but we did it. We had a conversation about Voting NO in a matter of a minute of time on a sweaty afternoon in August.
She signed “thank you.” I returned the gesture, and we both went on our ways, smiling.
Looking around as she went the direction of the Vote NO booth and I went the direction of my Jeep, I felt a new sense of hope for November. Though I still couldn’t see many Vote NO t-shirts in the crowd, I know knew that there were plenty of people feeling that sentiment…plenty of people wanting to show their signs of support for Voting NO.
And I remain hopeful.