There were few sightings on Day 2 of the 2016 Minnesota State Fair destined to make the Hall of Fame, but there was nonetheless one “moment” that was one of this year’s most startling. It was almost 4 p.m. when that “moment” occurred, as I was exploring the smoking area next to the beer gardens block and its adjoining bathroom. Sitting on the steps was a middle-aged woman, man, and a young blond girl who looked about 13. It’s almost to the point where my eyes are no longer even conditioned to explore very young teens anymore because the smoking rate amongst them is so close to zero, so I didn’t even process this girl during my first visual scan of the smoking area. Yet I spotted the mom (or possible grandma) smoking and then extended her hand past her husband and to the young girl. The first second I laid eyes on this girl she was taking the cigarette from her mother/grandmother and approaching it to her lips. She took one quick drag and then crushed it out on the step next to her. It happened so quickly and took me by such surprise that I was scrambling to process what I had just seen, taking a closer look at this girl thinking my first impression of her face must have been wrong and she was really 21. But I looked again….and she was definitely middle-school aged! And she was absolutely adorable to boot.
It happened again! This is the third time the Minnesota State Fair has produced a sighting where a permissive parent or grandparent has allowed their middle-school-aged blond bombshell girl to smoke publicly. And all three girls could be sisters…all adorable long-haired blonds with bubbly smiles and youthful energy to spare. At first I was in despair that I missed this, but honestly there’s no telling how much I actually missed. The plan all along may have been to give this girl one or two on-the-sly drags from mom’s cigarette, and even that was a crazy move given the stigma surrounding letting children smoke these days, let alone in perhaps the most public place in all of America in late August and early September given the size of the crowds. The family got up to leave shortly after, in good spirits, and the young girl was wearing a black T-shirt and gray leggings. I was still kind of in shock and didn’t know what else to do in response, choosing to check out the butt the daughter crushed out but seeing there were three different butts on the same corner of the same step and not knowing which was hers….
While I wouldn’t see any more smoking from this family, I did run into them on the grounds in another half hour or so, walking through an intensely crowded part of the grounds with the parents/grandparents razzing the girl in a way that parents and grandparents often do to girls that age. I didn’t hear the context of the razzing but I heard the girl say in a classic early teen girl voice “I’m not totally clueless!” The mother laughed and repeated the “not totally clueless” line to the father who didn’t hear it. I was gaming for a very risky photo as the girl briefly broke in front of her elders and I snapped a rear photo of her in the tanktop and leggings. You can’t tell much from the photo since you don’t see her face but she’s clearly a very young girl based on her body frame. I still don’t know what to make of this sighting. The shocking novelty of that three-second moment was enough to make this my second favorite sighting of the day and am grateful for what I did see, but also disappointed that this sighting, and sightings like it, have become such an endangered species even compared to 2000 when I saw my first sighting of its kind at the MNSF. I suppose out of 260,000 attendees at the Minnesota State Fair, the odds are probably decent that there’s a single cute 13-year-old blond girl who smokes among them, but I’m still rather shocked I was actually there to see it when I needed to be.