Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sharing dairy at the fair [Dairy Star Column]

It all started with a simple question.

We were standing next to the Butterhead Carving Booth in the Dairy Building at the Minnesota State Fair. Monika was gazing, her nose almost pressed into the glass, as Linda Christensen carved a dairy princess's likeness into a block of butter. She was still beaming from meeting Princess Kay of the Milky Way Haley Hinrichs.

Dan and Daphne were finishing the last spoonfuls of their ice cream treats. Glen and I were visiting with a couple of fellow dairy farmers.

There was another family sitting nearby - a mom and dad and two boys - finishing their malts and sundaes. That's when the other mom caught my attention and asked, "What is this place called?"

She was sharing a post on Instagram about how much they liked their treats and wanted to get the name of the Dairy Goodness Bar right.

I told her the name and suggested that she tag Midwest Dairy and the Minnesota State Fair in the photo. She said she had never tagged anyone in a post, so I showed her how. While I was helping her, the older son figured out that we were dairy farmers. The boy, who is about Dan's age and equally talkative, started peppering us with questions about living on a farm. Before long, Dan and the boy were caught up in conversation like long lost friends.

A couple minutes later, our family and theirs were both ready to move onto our next fair destination. They were going to the midway to find the rides. We were going to the poultry barn to see the chickens and rabbits.

"Can we walk together?" the oldest son asked.

The mom and I looked at each other, shrugged a little, and said, "Why not?"

That's how we found ourselves walking down Judson Avenue, trying to keep two families with two strollers together as we wove our way through the crowd of fairgoers.

As we walked, we talked. Dan and the oldest son volleyed between questions about farm life and questions about Pokémon. The mom and I talked about dairy farming and our families. The family of four was visiting the Minnesota State Fair for only the second time, after living abroad for several years and then moving to the Twin Cities a couple years ago.

I think Glen and the other dad were left wondering how on earth this random, instant connection actually just happened.

The conversations continued into the poultry barn. The other family hadn't planned to visit the barns because of one son's asthma, but they decided a short visit into the barn would probably be all right.

So there we were, standing between the chickens and the rabbits, when the real questions started.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

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