The Minnesota State Fair: Clients and Volunteers Reflect

Uphold Human Rights Fund
October 23, 2018

Center for Victims of Torture

The Minnesota State Fair may be over, but not for a handful of CVT clients and volunteers. The experiences they enjoyed this year are still fresh on their minds, and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

This is the eighth year the Minnesota State Fair has donated a generous number of tickets to CVT. A former CVT intern made the first request, and today Beth Wickum, CVT’s volunteer director, continues to successfully request tickets through the Minnesota State Fair’s donation program.

According to Abbey Kanzer, Psy.D., LP, psychotherapist and trainer at CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center, admission to the State Fair allows for community engagement and connection. “Not having to pay an entry fee is huge. It makes the Fair accessible,” she says.

The clients she and Jenna Nomeland, MSW, LGSW, CVT psychotherapist and intake and referral coordinator, met with prior to their State Fair adventure belong to a men’s group at the St. Paul Healing Center. The participants hadn’t attended the Fair before, but they were interested.

“We described the Fair as a huge gathering,” said Abbey, “that really comes from the agricultural roots of Minnesota. For a lot of people, Minnesota is synonymous with farmland, dairyland. And the State Fair is a showcase for that.”

Many of the clients in CVT’s men’s group are younger adults who hail from an urban environment. A fair setting was a new experience for most of them. “We talked about how it engages the senses,” said Jenna. “The sounds of the people, the smells of all the food, live animals being born. They seemed really intrigued by the live animals part.”

Three CVT community guides, volunteers who help CVT’s torture survivor clients learn about and acclimate to the Twin Cities landscape, attended the State Fair with clients this year; two reflected on their experiences:

Erik Radtke, Minneapolis
My client and I went to the Fair on a Thursday. The weather was perfect. There was record-setting attendance for the day, but it didn’t feel crowded and the streets were navigable.

I had seen a TV report about the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) first-time presence at the Fair. The EAA is located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, near my hometown, and my father had been a volunteer there for several years. So Samuel*, the CVT client who attended with me, and I headed there first. It was a good choice. Samuel put on the goggles, and we got to participate in the virtual reality experience of the museum, airshow and flying.

Then we were off to the animal exhibits, where Samuel went Live on Facebook as we checked out pigs and goats, ducks, chickens and geese. After a quick tour of the horse barn and riding competition, we stopped for a simple lunch – nothing on a stick, believe it or not. We also went to the Minnesota United Football Club (MNUFC – AKA the Minnesota Loons) booth, where we waited in line to meet and greet three of Minnesota’s major league soccer players.

On the ride home, Samuel expressed his gratitude for the day, saying that he now wanted to come back another time before the Fair closed.

Miriam Bosveld, Minneapolis
I had a great time at the fair with two clients!

I was certain that one client was going to love it, but with the other, I couldn’t speculate.

I thought Mary* would love it, and she did! She was set on finding the give-away items, especially backpacks. I think she went home with about ten. The best building for free backpacks is the University of Minnesota building. If you take their surveys, you get a backpack. We took a very long survey about health and well-being. Then we took another survey about our alcohol use. My client’s alcohol use survey was over very quickly; she doesn’t drink. I didn’t want her to see how long I might need to spend taking that survey, so I skipped ahead.

The other client, Anna*, went with me for about two hours. We saw the farm animals first and while she liked the horses, as we were about to enter the swine and sheep barn, the first thing we saw was a huge, incredibly ugly pig. I’m pretty sure that even people who like pigs would recoil at this pig.

Anna seemed unfazed, but I decided to steer us toward the sheep. She said she liked the sheep and the rabbits best. After we left the animal barns, we went to see the largest pumpkin in the horticultural building.

I just love to get to know new people at the Fair. It’s so relaxing just to look at things. Mary and I agreed that the people-watching in particular is super fun, and we spent lots of time sitting quietly and just looking at everyone walking by.

CVT extends a heartfelt thank-you to the Minnesota State Fair for facilitating these memories. Staff, volunteers and clients look forward to a great get-together at the Fair again next year.

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