Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wisconsin State Fair Did Me In. Sorry, Hot Wisconsin Cheese, I Am Tired.

Well, I Made It.  

My thirty days with Rob Schmidt and his cheese business are over and I am in a good place.

While sleeping in the the park in Fort Wayne waiting for the first day to begin, I knew this would be an adventure.  After a very long and tedious bus ride from Grand Rapids, I had only a few hours to catch some shuteye and the park was the closest place.   My view from that first morning is below.  My view from every other waking moment is the second image...

Looking up from my park bench.

For 9 days we worked the Three Rivers Festival and sold a lot of deep fried cheese.  The batter was made fresh every couple of hours, the cheese was cut largely by hand and largely by me.  The days were long, typically 9 a.m. until after midnight.  We would open the trailer, cut cheese, deep fry cheese, take in a ton of cash and then clean for ninety minutes.  On our hands and knees scrubbing the floor, cleaning batter, grease, flour and cheese from some very inauspicious places. 

Including my fingers.

This first week and a half got me tuned up for the monster event of the year.  The Wisconsin State Fair is the year's biggest money maker for Rob and we all knew it would be a busy eleven days.  Explanations of the extent of the intensity were offered, but were tough to fathom.  Intellectually, I was able to comprehend the scope, but after seeing seeing the fairgrounds, named streets and the permanent structures, I knew this would be a great undertaking.

The streets can be found on Google Maps even.

Setting up by the race track for the Wisconsin State Fair.
Early morning cream puffs.
Although the WSF didn't start until Thursday, August 2, we arrived the Sunday before and immediately began setting up.  This year was Rob's first with two separate trailers. They wound up about a quarter mile away from each other.  The "Rapsure", right, was my main hub. The "Monster" was located just outside Creampuff Village, ran by Team Cream Puff.
Team Cream Puff
Love the hats.

The sleep situation never got much better than the first day.  Since we worked twice as much as we slept, it was easy to fall asleep wherever.  Naps on the grass, in a random chair, in the prep trailer - didn't much matter.  It was all fair game.  Rob would sleep in one of the trucks or in a chair right outside the food trailer. We would have a huge rush for a few hours and he would cook and cook, on and on.  He'd head out to the chair and nap for a bit.  If someone walked by, he would open his eyes and ask how long the line is.  What interesting dreams he must have.

All in all I worked 4 separate festivals.  Three Rivers Festival in Fort Wayne; Swiss Days in Berne, IN; Fort Wayne Pride Fest; finishing with the Wisconsin State Fair.  The entire run was about thirty days and ran from July 13 through August 12.  I have been home for eleven days catching up on sleep as my body heals a bit.  I have become a firm believer that sleep heals us on many levels.  There were a few nights where my arms and elbows and shoulders would hurt so bad, I could not sleep.  I did take the the seventh day (ha!) as a day of rest, but wound up at a Brewers game and had a nice meal while exploring downtown.

A decent view from right field at Miller Park.

This entire experience was fascinating on every level.  As a friend said, even amazing experiences don't  have to be 100% good.  Agreed, but this was close.  I would give it a 90 on that scale, largely due to the fact that I took pretty good care of myself along the way and was able to find applicable lessons in all I could.  Plus, it was fun.  Really fun.  Especially when things were hitting on all cylinders.  That aside, it was tough work and I don't believe I would do it again.  It was great to see new places, meet new people and have the very unique experiences I enjoyed.  I saw people freak out, break down, be strong, get fired, be hired, work hard, listened to complaints and found my place in it all.

I am just beginning to dissect the experience and find the meaning in it all in my current space.  Some lessons are very clear to me already.  As I delve into the individual experiences, many outside of the trailers I am learning more.  Why that crew, in those particular cities, the particular stretch of time?  It's coming together.  

All in all, I am glad to be done.  Hitting the ground running wasn't necessarily in my plans, but it just keeps going.  The evolution will not stop.  I was away from my computer for a while, but now am making the time to stay connected.  Life is beautiful.

Thanks for reading.


Funny shirts everywhere. 
Video of this ride on my YouTube page.

Jalapeno white cheddar.  Cut by hand.
A far away storm near Milwaukee.

 Crazy lightning. Vid of storm here.

X marks the spot!

Mas lightning.

All day every day, people crowded the streets. 
Our RV park at the fairgrounds.

Otherwise we had to pay the $9 to get in every day!

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