There are many longstanding traditions at the Minnesota State Fair, but only one will cost you your underwear (at least I hope so).
For as long as people have been taking rides on the SkyGlider (that aerial ride that looks like a ski chair lift), they've been dropping stuff off of it.
Over the past 17 years, people have released a menagerie of stuffed animals, sunglasses, cookies, paper fans, keys, change, dozens of hair ties, unwanted corn cobs, a plunger – you name it, it falls off the ride. One year a prosthetic leg even came down from the sky.
A lot of the items end up on top of the metal roof of the Kemps Little Farm Hands building. By the end of the 12 days of the fair, that roof is loaded.
Here's what it looked like on Tuesday (day six of the fair):
Are people dropping all that stuff on accident? Beth Schuldt, who's been an education specialist at Little Farm Hands since 2003, told GoMN it might've started off that way.
But somehow as time went on, it became a sort of State Fair tradition.
"It's become more prevalent as the years go by," Schuldt said. "It's a prank, people having fun I guess. And it's a challenge – what can you get up there, and how long will it stay?"
Curiously, undergarments are among fairgoers' favorite things to drop. Schuldt says a "weird" variety of bras and underwear of all different styles and sizes floats down to the roof each year.
Which begs the question – are people actually taking their skivvies off to toss them, or bringing an extra just to throw it on the building?
"Well I hope they're clean," Schuldt chuckled. "Because we're the ones who have to pick them up later."
She was referring to staff members who work at Little Farm Hands and climb up on to the roof to retrieve the items. Schuldt says they usually wait until the end of the fair to do the clean-up, since the collection grows each day. There was actually a plunger up there from last summer that was just removed about a month ago, because it was hard to get to.
But there are occasions where time is of the essence – like when people lose their prescription glasses or car keys, or that time some guy's prosthetic leg clunked on top of the building.
After the fair is over, most things end up in the lost and found. If they sit there long enough, they'll be donated – except for the bras and underwear.
"Those get thrown away no matter what," Schuldt laughed.
All of this may sound like the work of teenagers, but she insists that it's not just kids.
"There's definitely adults doing it too. I would like to think they're more likely to be the ones who drop things on accident. But you know, it's just people having fun, almost like a team stealing a mascot," Schuldt said.
Once she told me throwing underwear off the ride is like a right of passage, I knew I had to do it, just to say I did.
This is ridiculous – let's do it
Originally I thought it would be funny to buy a huge pair of "granny panties" for the occasion, but buying clothes I knew would just end up in the trash didn't sit right.
I settled on a pair of underwear that I bought about six years ago, never wore because they were too small, and left sitting in the back of my drawer all this time.
And I attached a dollar bill with a safety pin, because even though Schuldt says the tradition is not really a nuisance, I wanted to throw a little something for the people who have to pick it all up at the end of summer.
Then I paid $4.50 for a one way trip – I knew if I bought the round trip I'd chicken out the first time around, and then probably talk myself out of it on the second pass.
I kept an eye on the carts in front of me, but as far as I could see, nobody was dropping anything. That made me a little more nervous. About five minutes into the ride, my feet dangled over Little Farm Hands. It was now or never.
It was a clear day with no wind, so I easily hit the rooftop. A little boy riding in a cart coming from the opposite direction saw me do the deed and yelled, "They just dropped money!"
I had somewhat of a guilty conscience, but no one said anything when I got off.
And just like that, I was part of a silly State Fair tradition.