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Escaping the heat

Everyone may love a fair, but at some point the human body needs a bit of respite from the piercing July sunshine and its accompanying heat. There are always concessions to cool a person down at the North Dakota State Fair, from milkshakes by the Expo Barn to cold lagers at Flickertail Gardens.

There are the three commercial buildings as well, each packed in with its maze of kiosks and vendors with curios to ogle. Parents in need of a cool sit down can bring their children over to the Kid’s Clubhouse at the west end of the fairgrounds, which is air conditioned and has chairs to rest in.

A fine way to while away the midday heat is at the North Dakota Game & Fish Outdoor Skills Park, just north of the unmissably giant slingshot. Amply shaded by trees and awnings, kids and adults alike can try their hand at supervised archery or pellet gun shooting, check out live tanks and mounted specimens of fish indoors, or catch the real thing at the little pier. Stocked with bluegill, would-be anglers are asked to limit their visits to twice in a day.

Perhaps the best escape is inside the State Fair Center, where among the state 4-H exhibits one can bask in the coldest air at the Fair, quietly admiring various arts and crafts such as quilts and embroidery, or learn random tidbits from the many static exhibits, like how to make homemade pasta, build a rabbit hutch, or properly carry a shotgun. By the time a person is finished, they will be a sight bit cooler and ready for another go at the rides.

Kristen Johnson has perhaps found a more extreme way to keep cool. She has been dubbed “Lady Houdini” for breaking the famed stunt performer’s record number of escapes from a water torture cell last year in Atlanta, with her 1,001st successful attempt. When she was finally able to take a fresh breath of air Friday afternoon, it was number 1,069.

Hand- and legcuffed on a stage just outside the Commercial II building at the Fair’s north end, with an additional pair of locks at her neck and waist, Johnson plunges into a tank filled with 140 gallons of water and locked inside. “This is not a magic trick. Not an illusion,” her husband and partner, magician Kevin Ridgeway told the audience. Their first time performing at the State Fair, the pair have been touring together since 2000.

People in the audience held their breath along with Johnson as she performed her stunt, which Ridgeway explained has taken her years to perfect. There are no curtains, no mirrors; just a death-defying amount of breath holding worth a solid round of applause afterward. The act will take place twice a day on weekdays and three times daily on weekends.