It’s a definite sign of the end of summer when the Minnesota State fair rolls around. Held during the last two weeks in August in Falcon Heights, Minnesota (a tiny suburb on the border of St. Paul), the Minnesota State Fair provides a lot of late-summer entertainment (and I'm not talking about the numerous Country/Western grandstand acts). Minnesotans love their state fair. It’s a last-minute chance for Minnesotans before crusty leaves fall off the trees and the snow begins piling up.

If you grace the Minnesota State Fair with your presence, there are several things that will keep you entertained besides the people-watching.

Inside the dairy building you're invited to watch artisans carve gigantic rectangular slabs of butter into smaller rectangular slabs of butter, and it may or may not slightly resemble some Milky Way “Princess”.

While walking around all of the different exhibition booths, try to collect as many FREE tote bags as you can on your arms. It's an unspoken rule of the Minnesota State Fair that you must try to 'one-up' everyone else on your tote bag collection. Men pass each other, mentally sizing each other's worth on how many tote bags one can clutch on their during an eight hour day (I wonder if Guinness has a world record about that?...), only to go home and toss all of the trophies in the trash.

Also check out the horticulture exhibits. Farmers and florists from around the state put their best radishes, carrots, pumpkin seeds, and marigolds on display, trying to win that coveted blue ribbon. It's an annual joke the farmers play on the urban folks: They fill buildings with thousands of bushels of absolutely identical fruits, vegetables, grains and such, and then randomly distribute blue ribbons to make us spend the day trying to figure out why THIS jar of seed is better than the others. They have a two-way mirror that lets them look at us as we squint, knowingly, at the ribbon-draped winners -- listen closely, and you might hear their hysterical laughter!

The Minnesota State Fair seems to be a pretty sanitary place. It's a miracle that the place is as clean as it is -- most people would balk at buying a hot dog several yards away from fresh-squeezed horse squattings, but we do so with complete confidence at the fair!

Another noteworthy item to mention about the fair is all (well, most) of the food is on a stick. Pickles, steak, fried alligator, JELLO - if you can eat it, it's on a stick. Plus, every year they come up with a new item to put on a stick; a couple years ago, it was the the deep-fried candy bar. A fried candy bar? Heck, they might as well just stick deep fried Crisco on a stick. Sad fact is that Minnesotans would line up like cattle to purchase it JUST BECAUSE IT'S ON A STICK!

And then you have the local news stations. For the entire two weeks of the fair, all four Twin Cities news stations do an on-site broadcast. "LIVE, FROM THE FAIR!" Seriously, do other states shut down for their state fairs? Or are we just the lucky ones? I honestly can't imagine other states that would go all out as we do. Do all the news anchors in California or New York get 12 whole days to wear sporty little polos and deliver news to cheering masses? I don't know why, but I just can't get a mental image going.

If you're a Minnesota resident, you WILL always feel obligated to go. After all, it's the only place where you can wear a feedbag of french fries without suffering public scorn, and that's reason enough to go!