It was 6:40 p.m. on Day 2 of the 2017 Minnesota State Fair and the evening’s grandstand lineup was weak so I wasn’t overly confident about getting a ton of great sightings from concertgoers, but I still knew that the area near the grandstand was my best bet. I wandered over to the east side smoking area and was only getting modest rewards there but moving to the cement base encircling the grandstand stairwell I would stumble upon my sighting of the day and the most shocking image of the 2017 fair season. A trio of female smokers included two of the youngest smoker girl faces I’d seen all day in the presence of a chubby mid-30s woman. The mid-30s woman on the right bore a striking resemblance to the young girl on the left so I figured she was her mother, while the girl in the middle didn’t resemble the other two and I suspect was just a friend. My first instinct upon seeing their faces and body types was….these girls are no older than 15!
I approached the berm from a different angle to get side pics of the blond on the left, who was absolutely adorable and had the sweetest face of any smoker of the fair season. And when I say her face was sweet, I’m talking about the purest cane of sugar from the C & H fields in Hawaii! I saw many teenage faces over the course of the 2017 fair season, almost none of them smokers, but somehow the girl with the face that seemed least likely of anybody to actually smoke was holding an all-white cigarette in her hand and dragging from it. Even in 1997, this would have been an unthinkable sighting, but in 2017 it just seemed too good to be true! Even her clothing was far more conservative than the average mid-teen fairgoer, her blond hair flowing over her shoulders onto a green tanktop with black jeans below the waist framing a petite body. And the teenage friend was nothing to sneeze at either, a brunette with her hair up in a ponytail wearing a white tanktop and medium-blue jeans with holes in the knees. She looked at least a little more like a smoker than the blond, but it defied belief to be standing in observance of either one of them with cigarette in hand. And it was also thrilling to see all three of them had different brands of cigarettes! Mom had some kind of cork filter while daughter had an all-white and the friend in the middle was smoking a Camel Turkish Royal. These very young smokers already had some independence in choosing their own brands rather than being forced to smoke whatever the adults gave them!
My vantage point from there was not perfect, but nobody seemed to notice as I hovered a few yards in from of them, frantically snapping as many pics as I could knowing a good percentage of them at this hour would be blurry. The smoking show was just adorable and every time the cigarette approached that mid-teen blond’s face I marveled. Both girls were very clearly adept smokers, but the blond seemed even more natural at it, and even though the image is blurry, I got a pic of a cloud of carcinogenic filth spewing out of her heartbreakingly cute face. The brunette friend was a little more distracted by her phone but she got some nice drags in too, albeit producing less dense exhales to follow the drags up. And while more of the pics that I scored were blurry than not, I managed three or four that were just perfect, including one of the blond in mid-drag, documenting this insanity close-up. Almost every year, I still manage to get at least one surreal sighting of this caliber, and I studied the girls’ faces as closely as I could as they neared the end of their cigarettes, wondering if it was just the latest example of the modern trend of girls looking younger than they are, but still being unable to imagine it here based on those faces. The blond finished her cigarette first, crushed the all-white out on the cement and dropped it to the pavement below. The brunette had a couple more drags left on hers and just dropped it to the ground without crushing it out. Now I had a problem as it was 10 minutes to 7:00 and I had to meet my parents soon…and these gals weren’t leaving just yet to allow me the butt IDs. But thankfully, a guardian angel helped me out, a middle-aged woman who was sitting on the corner of the cement just behind the blond got up to leave, and I was able to sit behind the teen smokers at very close range to wait them out. Doing so, I inadvertently got visual confirmation of their youth from only a foot or so away….
The brunette was looking at her own phone with her face reflecting in it as if taking selfies. Between the youthful image of her face in that phone and the way her legs filled out those holy jeans, I concluded there was no way she was more than 15. But then the blond turned to the friend and mom and I was able to see her face in profile upclose. My breath was temporarily taken away as I saw the features of a middle-school girl. Even 15 years old seemed like a stretch for this one, yet amazingly, she still had the telltale cheekbones of a girl who you could tell has been smoking a while. And she was rummaging around in her purse briefly which allowed me to spot the pack of Marlboro Nxts in there. This was a very special moment, and even though this girl’s mother was overweight and unattractive, I cannot possibly thank her enough for being a likely catalyst facilitating this cute young girl’s addiction to cigarettes. And I’ll just bet blondie was responsible for getting the brunette friend hooked as well. While I now had my brand confirmation, I was still gonna drag this out as late as I could and still meet my parents, and at 6:55 the mother shot off the cement with gusto and said “Let’s go, ladies!” to which the young girls rose to follow, heading south on the grounds.
With as big as the crowds were, I was skeptical I’d see them again on the grounds that evening, and I wouldn’t, but as I quickly turned the corner to make official the butt IDs of the blond’s Marlboro Nxt, the brunette’s Camel Turkish Royal, and the mom’s Marlboro Red, all littered below the pavement, it struck me that I had found something of a real-life version of the McPherson family from my “Trevor” stories, the smoking mom (from Minnesota no less) who corrupted her daughters into a smoking habit. It’s amazing to think there’s a family out there in my home state that in any way mirrors the fictional family from my stories, but I may have just had the opportunity to sit within a foot or so of the family that comes closest. My energy was now absolutely electric and I walked away at 6:57 to meet my parents.