We survived our annual trip to the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We came away with no more than a fat, bloodied lip and list of fair food favorites left un-sampled due to our tired toddler's accelerated departure schedule.

We try to go back to the fair every year. We only go for a day, but there was a time when Glen and I spent the entire 12 days of the fair inside the fairgrounds for one reason or another. We go now to refresh our memories and give Dan (our son) a chance to experience the fair.

As a fair employee and 4-H'er, I disdained the stroller-pushing parents at the fair, silently promising myself that I'd never try to wield a stroller through the congested mess of human traffic. I'd use one of those back carriers instead. Silly me to pass judgement on all of those fair parents before becoming one myself. We bring the biggest stroller we have so there's room to store all of our stuff inside with Dan. I saw a father carrying his daughter around in a back carrier. He was sweating buckets. I was sweating just pushing the stroller. No, we won't be using a carrier; we'll keep our stroller.

And we'll keep weaving our way through the people en route to our fair destinations: The barns. The butter heads. The Dairy Bar. The Horticulture building for apple cider. The food booths.

I wanted a rib sandwich from Donna's, a cone of cinnamon almonds, and a dish of Nitro Ice Cream. Glen wanted a gyro. Dmitri's was as far as we made it on our food list, so I settled for a gyro as well.

Maybe next year I'll get my ice cream. And maybe someday we'll be back at the fair for more than a day at a time. I can only hope that our children will have an opportunity to bring their calves or heifers or chickens or whatever they want to the fair.

I don't have the lifetime of exhibition memories Glen can claim. My showing experience was short and sweet. I brought one heifer to the state fair during my 4-H career; but those four days of livestock encampment were life changing.

On day one, I fell in love with the Moo Booth. My county, Carlton, being one of the less prominent dairy counties, was conveniently located right next to the Moo Booth. As soon as my watch was over, I'd scoot over to help where I could.

On day two, I met a University of Minnesota admissions counselor and began seriously considering the University as a potential collegiate destination. The U of M didn't send recruiting agents to dot-on-the-map high schools in the neck of the woods where I grew up, so I had never, before the fair, thought about becoming a Gopher.

On day three, I interviewed for and earned a trip to the National 4-H Dairy Conference, which opened my eyes to the world of dairy in a way only the conference and a trip to Expo can. The trip cemented my intentions to pursue a career in agriculture.

On day four, I pledged to come back again. And that I did. For the four years I was in college, my school year started with 12 days at the fair, most of them in the Moo Booth.

My memories of the fair are many and diverse.

Watching out the window in the cattle barn dorm while my fellow 4-Hers sobbed as their dairy steers were shocked and prodded onto the pot bellied trucks, no doubt headed for market. Thinking, why don't they just let them lead their steers up onto the truck; it'd be a lot easier; and then, I sure am glad Ginny is coming home with me.

Sitting in frozen rotation as my likeness emerged out of 90-pound block of butter. Wondering what on earth I was going to do with all of that butter. Thawing out briefly to ride in the parade.

Meeting my future husband during a shift in the Gopher Dairy Club's Dairy Bar. Floating through the rest of the fair love-struck despite my vow to spend that school year single.

This year, the memories I paste into my mental fair scrapbook will be of Dan. His temper tantrum in the Children's Barnyard because he had to leave the little green tractor there. His cock-a-doodle-dooing at all of the chickens while running up and down the aisles of the poultry barn. His crushed lip after tripping while trying to run away from us in the sheep barn and face-planting onto the concrete.

Yes, this was truly the year of blood, sweat, and tears at the fair. But next year, we'll go back for more.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 50 cows near Melrose, Minn., with 'help' from their one-year-old son, Dan. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.