ST PAUL, Minn. — The state fair is a family affair in all aspects. Nora Ivory knows that once you're in, you're in. She runs the Strawberry Patch stand that sells a variety of strawberry-based desserts.
"My father started working back in the 1940s, working for Bill Brede in the original beer garden, so it's in the family," Ivory said. "It's family blood. It's, you know, generation to generation."
Protecting and maintaining the family asset that is the Strawberry Patch – next to the horse barn – has been an especially tough mission this year.
"The unknowns of what should we order from our distributors, if they don't take it back? Are we going to have a giant party at the end of the fair?" Ivory said."
The rainy conditions at the start of it all, though, weren't worth any kind of party.
"It was horrible, it was cold, windy, people they left and they didn't come back, it was pretty bad," Ivory added. "The worst thing is that we needed rain all summer."
A couple booths down, on the more savory side of things, Tom Burke was savoring the interactions he missed out on last year at the Ole and Lena's booth.
"We have had a lot of customers come up and say, 'Thank you for being here, and for coming out and doing this.'" Burke said. "It just means so much to everybody."
When asked if things felt like they were normal again, Burke was quick to say no.
"But it is good to see people coming out and having fun – families, kids getting on the rides," he said. "It's fun."
And just like any seasoned state fair staple would, Ole and Lena's is rolling with the punches, unknowns and all.
"Some of our vendors were like, 'We cant get this, we're gonna have to get you something similar,' and then you're trying to change product because it's not what you're used to," Burke explained. "So you're experimenting with your recipes, and see how the new product works and that makes it a challenge. But the vendors we use are doing their best, they work with you and (are) very apologetic when they can't get stuff."
According to the numbers provided to us by the state fair, the first three days of the fair saw about a 50% decrease in attendance.