Grandstanding the State Fair

It’s well into summer and the Minnesota State Fair is just six weeks away. I hit the fair at least twice each year and catch a grandstand show once every few years. I’ve seen Rod Stewart, Emmy Lou Harris, Poco, Clay Aiken, Cyndi Lauper, Marshall Tucker and Ozark Mountain Daredevils, to name a few.

This year’s line-up includes a great variety including Reba, Def Leppard with Heart, Marc Anthony, Garrison Keillor, Weezer, Train & Maroon 5, Steely Dan and Carnival of Madness 2011.

I’d like to see Marc Anthony, Steely Dan and Garrison Keillor but decided on The Happy Together Tour, which features The Grass Roots, The Turtles, The Association and Mark Lindsay (formerly with Paul Revere and the Raiders). The ticket price played a huge part in my decision, for $18 I get to see a few bands from my childhood whereas some of the gigs are $50-60.

I just can’t justify shelling out that much money for a grandstand show. Don’t get me wrong. All of the shows I’ve watched at the grandstand have been great, especially since it was remodeled. But add $12 to get into the fair and the cost of parking or transportation … plus you’re sitting outside, praying it doesn’t rain.

The new wheelchair seating is near-perfect at center stage, mid-level, or on the main level off to the side. But oddly, there is only one elevator to take you up to accessible seating and the elevator line gets long before a concert.

A few years ago, my friend, Lori, and I went to see Clay Aiken (I made us “Achin’ for Aiken” T-Shirts). The elevator line was long and moving slow. Lori went ahead to see what the hold-up was and found that only two wheelers at a time were going up. Some wheelers had pushers who timidly pushed them on, leaving spaces on the car; some were taking a whole entourage with them.

By the time we were 10 wheelers from the elevator door, we heard the screaming fans while Clay took the stage. Figuring it to be another 25 minutes of elevator waiting, we couldn’t take it anymore, we ran up ahead and started directing traffic.

To the mom and three teenagers, “Come on! You can walk, take the stairs!” … To the electric wheeler, “Move that chair over, you’ve got two feet of space between you and the wall!” … to the wheeler and his date, “Cozy up, pal, we’ve got a walker comin’ in!” … and to the little granny, pushing as fast as she could, “Get movin’ Missy! Are you gettin’ on or not?!?”

Lucky for everybody, Lori and I made it to our seats before Clay finished his first song.

If you go: Reduced fair admission tickets are available prior to opening day, August 25, at the fair box office or Cub Foods. There are special discount days for seniors, kids or military personnel, find more information at the State Fair website. Accessible park and ride lots are all over town, check out the Metro Transit website. But be aware that not all lots are served by buses with lifts.

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