Fun at the great Minnesota get together

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One of things that I really enjoy about living in Minnesota, besides our many lakes and beautiful scenery, is an event that takes places for 12 days leading up to Labor day. It is our state fair, which just so happens to be one of the biggest state fairs in the country. Nearly 100,000 to 200,00 people attend each day with the number being on the higher side during the weekend. It an event that I circle on my calendar every year. I greatly look forward to it every summer.

I went to my first state fair about 12 years ago. Prior to that time, I was worried about the hassles with parking and traffic, however, I found a great place to park and take a shuttle bus to the fair. It takes a lot of the worry and stress off about attending such a huge event. Since that first time, I usually make at least 2 trips, sometimes more to the great get together. I find that making one trip is not enough. There is just too much to see and eat that one trip does not satisfy me. 

People ask me what I like about the fair the most and the answer is very easy. It is the food!! It is as simple as that. Most of the food out there comes on a stick which leads me to what my favorite food items are. Until some food vendor can persuade me otherwise, my favorite is the pork chop on a stick. It is a huge grilled pork lathered with some of the finest seasoning imaginable. It is well worth the 7 dollars. I also like the corn on the cob on a stick, the homemade french fries, bratwurst and I know of a booth which has the best chocolate shakes on this planet. My stomach is just going crazy right now!! A lot of the food out  probably scores very low on the healthy foods ratings chart since many items are deep-fried. Even though I normally watch what I eat, the rules are thrown out during state fair time.

Whenever you have that many people in such a small lot of land, you simply cannot help but notice other people and I find the people watching to be another thing that I enjoy about the fair. There are people of all ages out there and they come in all sorts of sizes and shapes as well. I often find myself looking at what people wear or do not wear!! The viewing of the opposite sex  at the fair is very good to say the least!! There is never a shortage of hot looking babes or guys to look at. Despite the great differences in people, one common thing that I notice is that most people seem to be happy and enjoying themselves and I just love being a part of that kind of environment. The fair is meant for fun and people seem to be having plenty of it.

The final thing that I really enjoy about is the live outdoor music. There is a huge grandstand on the fairgrounds and many top bands and singers have played in the past several years. Besides the grandstand music, there are many areas that provide good entertaining music that is free. I always enjoy taking a break from walking around to listen to some good live music.

Besides those things, there are plenty of rides to go on and animal exhibits to see. What would a fair be without those things? It is really fun to watch the young children go on those rides and see the joyous expressions on their faces. I am not really a big ride kind of guy since I am a complete big chicken!! You could never get me onto one of those roller coaster rides.

The fair will end on Labor Day and that will be a sad day for many including myself. I wish the fair would last longer. I always consider the end of the fair to mean that summer is over. Those 12 days of the fair really go by fast but the memories of those days are among the fondest that I will have all year. Whenever, I drive by the fairgrounds in the winter, I always think about those days in late August when I am part of a huge throng of people just out enjoying themselves. Attending the fair has become a yearly tradition for me and besides Christmas, is one of my favorite times of the year.

 

 

 

Knucklehead pro athletes

Suppose you were one of the best people in the world at your particular job.  An elite company calls you up and makes an offer that you cannot possibility refuse. Since you are one of the best in the world and have the potential to greatly enhance the company with your talent, they offer you a starting salary of at least a million dollars plus incentives. After about 5 years, the salary doubles, as does the incentives. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal doesn’t it?  You would be set for life and could probably retire very early. So my question is this, would you do anything to jeopardize this deal? Perhaps there is some stipulation in the contract which voids it for bad behavior, breaking company rules or criminal activity on your part. Would it be that hard to make sure your personal life is in top order and there would be no threat to this nice deal? I think most people would certainly think twice about doing anything that would even come close to jeopardizing this type of contract. Unfortunately, a few people in our society do not feel that way and they are the people we like to admire and worship. They are those few professional athletes who feel they are above the law or the policies of their particular league.

Being someone who plays sports myself, I have to admit my jealously of the professional athlete in this country. The money they make is unbelievable. If they plan things out well (many do not), they will be sitting well financially for the rest of their lives. Combine that with the fact that they are making tons of money just playing a game they enjoy and only working a few hours a day is another reason for my envy. How many part-time jobs can you find like that? Sure there are some down sides to being a pro athlete, lack of privacy and loads of travel but I doubt those athletes really complain too much about how bad it is being a pro athlete.

I really have to shake my head in disbelief over the recent stories in the news concerning Aaron Hernandez and those major league players caught using steroids. What are these knuckleheads thinking? Apparently, they are not thinking about the consequences of their actions, now, the future or how it will affect the organization which pays them millions. Not to mention how they let down many fans and friends.

Aaron Hernandez is a classic example of what I am talking about. A great,young tight end in the NFL who had nothing but great fame ahead of him. Now it is all gone. Hernandez will lose about 19.3 millions dollars because of his actions plus all that endorsement money. I find it very disturbing and sad to see such a great young talent ruin his life like that. If the charges of murder against him are true, it might go down as one of the most idiotic thing that any athlete in this country has ever done. Life is all about making good choices and Hernandez appears to be the poster child of the consequences of making bad choices.

Pro athletes are scrutinized more now than ever before. We live in a very media driven world and every little thing that some athlete does gets full attention. I heard that Tom Brady got caught jay walking the other day from Twitter!! But seriously, if I was one of those privileged athletes making millions of dollars a year, I be very careful who my friends and acquaintances are, what I say to the media or how I conduct myself in public. The sad truth is that many athletes are not mature enough to handle their sudden fame and money. Hernandez is not the only case, many have screwed up promising careers because of their poor lack of judgement.

Perhaps something good will come out of these stories about law breaking athletes. It could serve as a warning to other athletes. Maybe there is another baseball player out there who thinks he can get away with using steroids to enhance his career and maybe hit more home runs. But in the end, you will get caught and your legacy will be one of a cheater, not a good or great player. How humiliating would that be?

One of these days, guys like Hernandez and those other cheating athletes might wake up and realize how wrong their actions were. I could only dream of having the opportunity and gifts that Hernandez had. To see him blow it like that really gives a new meaning to the word knucklehead. I hope his story will be a lesson to all athletes and everyone in general who has a promising future ahead of them. There are many temptations out there that could potentially ruin your promising future.

A return to my old hometown

Many of us have probably taken a very similar route in our lives. You live in some area under the roof of your parent’s house for the first 18 years or so before moving to a different state or city. Maybe you go off to school, join the military or maybe just want to escape the dullness of your hometown. Very seldom do people live in the same town for their entire life. Returning to that place where you grew up is always a great experience and that is what happened to me a few weekends ago.

I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota and spent the first 18-19 years of my life there. Along the way, I accumulated many memories both good and bad. Like many people I grew up with, I went off to college before landing a job here in the Twin Cities. My parents still lived in my hometown so I visited frequently on holidays and such. My father suddenly passed away shortly before he was about to retire and my mother moved to another town after she retired. So the trips to my old stomping grounds pretty much came to stop. Sure, I had some relatives and cousins who still lived there but those trips to my mom’s new town to see her and my sisters along with their kids was enough for me. There is only so much traveling one guy can do!!

That all changed a few weeks ago. It all started several months ago when my cousin who now lives in Kentucky contacted me about traveling up to our old hometown for a weekend in July. Both him and I grew up there and we almost like brothers. He is a year older than me and we shared so many of the same memories of that little town.  I did not hesitate at all. We made plans and the day finally arrived when I was about to return to the scene of my early years.

One of the things that I really miss about traveling up there is the wonderful scenery, peace and tranquility of a rural area. That became evident as I drove further north. The pine trees, lakes and remote wilderness and lack of traffic was a treat for this city guy. It is a totally different world up there and sometimes that can be the best therapy for any stressed out city person.

After dropping off my suitcase at my aunt and uncle’s house and visiting with them for a while, it was time to meet up with my cousin and take a journey around town to see the old sites. We met at a McDonald’s which interesting enough was built on a same location that a strip club used to be. That was one of the first things that my cousin brought up. He used to work at a gas station across the street so he had some rather bad memories of the rift raft that came from that club. A great move by the city to tear that place down!!

During the next few hours, my cousin and I took a little tour around town and visited some of the old sites that we frequented during our youth. We went to some of the old ball fields where we spent so much time playing baseball and softball. Next to one of the ball fields was the old basketball court where I spent so much time playing pickup basketball during my high school days. The memories just flooded my mind!! I felt like I was 18 again!! For old-time sakes, I walked to the pitching mound of a softball field where I pitched at the same location for about 5 years. It seemed like just yesterday!!

We also drove around and looked some of the old houses that we spent time at. My late Grandma’s old house was one of the places that stood out in our little tour. It was like a second home to both of us along with many of our cousins. Nothing really changed much except for a few more trees in the front yard. We also drove past my parent’s first house. They bought the house for only 17k. That would be unheard of in this day and age. Most cars cost more. I looked at the backyard and memories of myself playing back there as a youngster came to light.

Later on, many of my relatives got together and had a little picnic at the city beach. I had so many great memories of that beach during my high school and college years. Our picnic was absolutely wonderful!! It was really great reuniting with relatives that I had not seen in years! They all kind of needled me for not visiting more often.  I loved visiting with everyone along with eating some great food.

Eventually, it was time to leave my old hometown and come back to my home in the Twin Cities.  I may have left the area but a part of me will always stay in that small town. The first few chapters of my life story will consist of living there and the many experiences that I went through. While I was looking at the old sites, I thought about what it would be like to live there today. I think anyone has those thoughts when you pay a visit to your hometown. Would you move back? For me, the answer is a flat-out no. If I had a family and kids, I might consider it but that is not the case right now in my life. A small town is just not the right place to live for a single guy without kids.

That weekend a few weeks ago will be one of the most memorable that I have had in a long time. I will definitely be back more often. Those 18 years living there will always be a part of who I am.  I realize now how much I have grown as a person since those early days.  It is funny how some of your fondest memories occur while living in your hometown. I always tell young people to relish those memories because they will always be remembered for the rest of your life. Going back to the scene of those memories makes that trip back to the old hometown that more special.