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Posted 7/29/09 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

I’m facing a real tough dilemma this coming weekend. Actually it isn’t so much a dilemma as it is a tough choice over how much food I want to eat. Or probably more importantly, how much food is my stomach going to allow me to eat before it completely rebels.
My problem began this past weekend when I made my annual pilgrimage to the North Dakota State Fair on Saturday.
Now if any of you know me, I only go to the State Fair for one reason. And that is to eat. Actually, it’s not eating. It’s more like grazing. From the minute I walk onto the fairgrounds until I finally stagger out many hours later, I cut a pretty wide path through the food booths. There are my favorites - the mini donuts, the corn dogs, fresh squeezed lemonades, cheese curds, fruit smoothies, fresh pie from the First Lutheran Church ladies, some Chinese, funnel cakes, maybe a slice of pizza or two, kettle corn, and of course, an Italian sausage with all the trimmings. As you can guess, I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to food at the fair. If someone else is eating something that looks good, I just may have to ultimately give it a try too.
Anyway Saturday’s excursion to the State Fair just wasn’t the same as it had been in in the past. I immediately knew there was going to be a problem when we took the exit off Highway 2 to the fairgrounds and became part of the biggest traffic backlog that I have ever experienced in North Dakota. For over an hour, we crept along that three-mile stretch just to get to the entrance of the fair’s main parking lot.  With the main lot full, we were kindly directed to follow the traffic to alternative parking lots about 1½ miles east of the main lot. I’ve never seen so many cars, campers and people hiking to the State Fair in over 20 years of going to the fair. Believe it or not, it took us just over two hours from the time we turned off Highway 2 to finally get into the fairgrounds.
To the credit of the State Fair, they did as good a job of handling the overload and getting enough busses to shuttle people to and from the parking lots as probably could be done under the circumstances .
Nonetheless, the loss of those two hours along with a record 53,000 people cramming the fairgrounds, severely limited my ability to truly enjoy all of the food that the fair had to offer.
So with one missed opportunity at overgrazing come and gone for another year, you can bet that I’m not going to miss out on any of the ribs that are going to be served up in Watford City this Friday during Ribfest.
Other than fair food, I probably enjoy working my way through a pile of barbecued ribs more than anything else. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve met a rib that I haven’t liked. I like ribs that are dry rubbed and I like them lathered in sauce. So long as they are cooked so that the meat just slides off the bone, there is nothing better to eat than ribs.
With 12 ribs teams cooking up their best ribs all day on Main Street, by the time that 5 p.m. rolls around you can bet that I’ll be ready to start the long and gruelling task of trying to sample ribs from each and every booth. That has been my goal every year and I’ve still yet to achieve it. Some years the ribs ran out before my appetite did. But in most cases, my stomach told me it was time to call it quits even though another mouth-watering sample was just a few steps away.
I don’t know about you, but summer doesn’t get any better than having the State Fair and Watford City’s Ribfest running together on back-to-back weekends. The only way it could be better is if I were to make just one last trip back to the State Fair on Saturday. I heard the First Lutheran Church women had a slice of fresh peach pie with a scoop of ice cream set aside with my name on it.