It's Karen's Turn column: A fabulous time in the Twin Cities

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

Our turn
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Ah, the Twin Cities! Don’t we Greater Minnesotans love to hate them! The woke activists. The riots. The homelessness. The crime. In recent years we have gaped at news reports of Minneapolis burning, of tent camps, of a long spate of carjackings. Why, half the time, doesn’t it seem like Minneapolis and St. Paul are failed cities?

As a long-time newspaper reporter, let me tell ya — there’s a lot more to a place than what makes the news.

Last weekend my husband, our 9-year-old son, and I got up early and drove a couple of hours to the County Road 72 Park & Ride in Minnetonka, where we caught a bus to the Minnesota State Fair. The bus was packed, with people standing in the aisles. It was a beautiful day. Everybody was in a great mood. They were going to the fair!

For much of the bus ride, I talked to a couple of ladies seated behind me. They were so darn nice, the kind of women you might run into at the Chatterbox Cafe in Lake Wobegon. By the time we got off the bus, they almost felt like extended family.

The fairgrounds was nearly as crowded as the bus, like 2.2 people per square meter. In such close quarters, you couldn’t help but bump into people, but everybody was so nice when you did, as long as you didn’t knock over their cheese curds. I didn't, thank heavens.


People courteously let others go ahead of them, often with a pleasant look and a slight “after you, madame” gesture.

A lady overheard me lamenting that I hadn’t thought to bring sunscreen on that sunny day, and she pulled a bottle out of her purse and shared it with us.

“She’s a teacher,” explained one of her companions as we slathered it on our cheeks and necks.

There were all kinds of people at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Skin color of all shades. Elderly in wheelchairs. Babies in strollers. Guys who’d shaved their heads except for a hank they twisted into a ponytail. People of indeterminate gender. People wearing paper animal ears from the Moo Booth or the Oink Booth. Obese people riding scooters. A painfully thin gray-bearded man with bare feet. A mom screaming at her son because he was too scared to climb all the way up the Giant Slide. A quintet of black women with fantastic long braids that swung when they walked. People wearing masks. People without masks. Muslim women in hijabs. Women from a Christian sect wearing head scarves. All of us flawed. All of us beautiful. Most of us with glee on our faces because WE WERE AT THE FAIR!

In line at Ye Olde Mill, a pair of young girls told a middle-aged man that he had dropped something. He looked down and realized it was cash, bills that could have floated away or gotten thieved away. The girls didn’t have to tell him. But they did. They were kind. Maybe they’ll grow up to be like the ladies behind me on the bus.

You can’t run a 12-day fair without having mad governance skills. And everything worked. The toilets flushed. Vendors swiftly swapped food for cash. Lines hurried along. There had been a shooting the night before at the fair — one person was injured — and security was tight, but I felt safe. I felt great. We were all Minnesotans together, on a beautiful sunny day at the fair.

OurTurn Karen.jpg
The author (wearing paper pig's ears), her husband and son at the Minnesota State Fair. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

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