The Minnesota State Fair. The Great Minnesota Get-Together. A swirling wonderland of musical acts, 4-H projects, animals, exhibits, food and fun. And something that, in my 15 years as a Minnesota resident, I had yet to experience. So I packed up the kids and husband and set off for a day at the fair.

We entered from Snelling Avenue and immediately were assaulted with the intoxicating scent of fried food, the dizzying sight of brightly colored booths and stands, and the engulfing sound of thousands of people having a good time.

I knew with the kids in tow that the full fair experience would be out of my reach. No way to go through every exhibit building and explore every inch of the fairgrounds before they hit critical mass and meltdowns ensued, so I had to set my priorities.

First, the must-see exhibits.

I had gone my whole life without experiencing art in butter, and it was time to rectify that. We trooped to the Dairy Building to watch a coat-and-glove-wearing artist sculpt a likeness of one of the members of Princess Kay of the Milky Way's court into a 90-pound block of butter. Also in the cooler, completed butter sculptures of the princess and other members of this year's court. Butter makes everything better, including sculpture.

Next, a stop at the Miracle of Birth Center to check out the newest additions to the animal kingdom. The kids were excited to see and pet the baby pigs, goats, sheep and calves. No chicks this year, due to a ban on poultry because of the threat of avian flu. If there were any active births happening while we were there, the rest of the crowd managed to hide them from us.

Then we hit the swine barn for a look at Captain Jack, this year's biggest boar at 1,080 pounds. That's a big pig!

By this time the kids were bored and getting hungry, so we began our fair food feast, starting off with the State Fair staple, the Pronto Pup, closely followed by cheesecake and bread sticks, and some fresh-squeezed lemonade to wash it all down.

Hunger momentarily satiated, we headed for the midway. When you bring the kids, rides are a must. While my husband and big kid hit the roller coasters, the little kid and I crashed and bashed on the bumper boats and bumper cars. Then I got talked into a ride that found me crushed against the side of the car by my children thanks to centrifugal force. It was a blast.

Heads spinning, we took a break from the rides and headed toward the grandstand area for more food. I snapped up a bucket of Sweet Martha's still-hot, fresh chocolate chip cookies while my husband snagged a giant turkey leg, both of which were shared. Also on this break, maple-glazed bacon on a stick. Yes, it was just as good as it sounds.

After a trip down the Giant Slide for the kids, we wandered over to the Kidway to let the little kid indulge a desperate desire for roller coaster rides. Ticket sheets finally exhausted, we grabbed some cotton candy to go, watched the start of the daily parade and hopped the bus back to our car.

While we had a full day of fun, I know there is so much more to see, do and eat. Thank goodness the fair happens every year, so I'll get another chance at everything I missed.