Minnesota State Fair 201: An Advanced Fairgoers Guide

That red-letter day is almost here – our annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair!

fair calendar 2015

I have written before of my love for the Great Minnesota Get-Together, in my post “One in 164,694 (People): A Day at the Minnesota State Fair.”  As my boys became teens, and now with one now in college and the other poised to leave the nest next year, I have treasured this tradition of quality mother-son time that is often hard to come by!  Recognizing that we may not have the chance to keep up our tradition attending together every year as they pursue their studies and whatever life holds for them beyond, we make sure to maximize our visits to the Fair — the food, the bargains, the exhibits …. you can’t see it all, but you sure can try.  How do you pack it all in?  Follow me, friend.

Minnesota State Fair crowds, 2014

1.  Do Your Homework.

MN State Fair website

The Minnesota State Fair website is your go-to resource for daily event schedules, entertainment options, logistics, and more.  We map out exhibits and any special music or culutural shows we want to watch, in addition to annual standards.  Key sections of the website to check out?

MN State Fair mobile app

Download the free Minnesota State Fair mobile app.  You can flag the food, merchandise and fun things you want to do while at the Fair, and then scroll through the list of marked items while at the Fair.  The app’s map feature  is particularly useful at the Fair, as it has a feature that allows you to follow the blinking blue dot marking your location to the food, merchandise or fun items on your list.  And if you are craving a certain food item at some point during the day, pull up the app, and use the proximity-based search tool to view the options near you.

Star Tribune's State Fair Guide

The Minneapolis Star Tribune publishes a guide to the Minnesota State Fair the Sunday before it opens.  Then once the Fair opens, the newspaper has helpful and entertaining updates in their Minneapolis Star Tribune online edition.  Rick Nelson, the Star Tribune’s restaurant critic, is always spot-on with his food recommendations (on Twitter @RickNelsonStrib).

Another Minnesota foodie worth following is Andrew Zimmern (on Twitter @andrewzimmern), who outlines his “Top Picks” for the Minnesota State Fair, as well as previewing new foods each year.  And be sure to bookmark Zimmern’s Instagram Scavenger Hunt to join in some photo fun.

2. Park & Ride is the Only Way to Go.

Entrance to the MN State Fair from the public transit parking lot

Parking on the fairgrounds can be a reasonable option if you arrive early in the day and are willing to pay $13.00.  The convenient and free options at any time of day, however, are the Park & Ride lots.  Park your car in one of the many lots scattered around the Twin Cities and hop a shuttle bus to the Fair.  Some lots are popular and may fill by noon on busier days, but a short distance away you are likely to find an alternate option.  Buses run from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.

3.  Support the MN State Fair Foundation and Enjoy a Cool Drink, Air Conditioning, and Clean, Uncrowded Bathrooms!

MN State Fair's J.V. Bailey House

Supporting the Minnesota State Fair with a donation to the Minnesota State Fair Foundation provides multiple benefits — not the least of which is helping to perpetuate the Great Minnesota Get-Together!  Become a “Friend of the Fair” and stop by the Foundation’s J.V. Bailey House when you arrive at the Fair to pick up your Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, calendar, supporter ribbon (contribution level may determine eligibility for different Fair gifts), and enjoy the old-fashioned setting and hospitality of the old groundskeeper’s house.  Contributions made after early August will go toward the following year’s Fair, so make your donation now and look forward to that clean, uncrowded bathroom option next year.

4. Don’t Miss the Crop Art.

Crop art can be found in the Agriculture Horticulture Building, as can the display of fantastical scarecrows. What is crop art?!  I provided some background information on this fascinating creative display in this earlier post.

Scarecrows at the Minnesota State Fair

5. Pet a Piglet.

While the avian flu concerns have emptied the poultry barns of the noisy array of chickens and roosters this year, the animal barns still have plenty to keep you entertained.  Baby farm animals have that universal “aawwwwww” factor, and the Miracle of Birth Center is aptly named.  Seeing a newborn lamb or piglet always invokes a sense of wonder.

Lamb at the MN State Fair

Piglet at the MN State Fair

2014 Poultry Barn, MN State Fair
I’ll be back …..

6.  Prioritize Your Food List — You Can Try, But You Simply Can’t Eat It All.

MN State Fair crepes

Saving the best for last:  At its heart, the Minnesota State Fair is all about the food!  Any regular fairgoer has a list of food favorites, and everyone’s list is different.  We have our favorites, but always try a few of the new foods for the year (see #1 above, with research resources for scouting new foods before you arrive).  With our trip looming, here’s our food plan — the key is having several people to share some items, so you each get a taste without getting so full you can’t sample the next selection.

Our tried-and-true?

  • Fruit and whipped cream crepe from the French Creperie ~ we each get our own to kick off our day at the Fair, no matter what time our day starts.
  • Cheese curds ~ from the Original Cheese Curds
  • Corn Roast ~ roasted ears of corn dipped in a vat of butter, with big composting bins nearby to collect the cobs
  • Mediterranean lemonade smoothie at Holy Land Deli at the International Bazaar ~ THE most refreshing drink on a hot day!
  • Pronto Pup
  • A new favorite after the 2014 Fair?  The Blue Barn’s Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz with Chimichurri Sauce and their Blueberry Basil Lemonade

We often share a shake from the Gopher Dairy Bar or a treat from the Dairy Goodness Bar in the Dairy Barn , after viewing the Princess Kay butter head carvings, of course!

Blue Barn's Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz with Chimichurri Sauce

And, finally, the new foods (either new to us or new to the Fair) we intend to add to the list this year!?

  • Butter Queen Coffee Ice Cream from the Hamline Dining Hall
  • Chocolate-Dipped Cherry on a Spoon from Jonny Pops
  • A Salad Named Soo at the Rabbit Hole in the Midtwn Global Market ~ a watermelon, basil, mint, and arugula salad with chili honey lime sauce
  • Minneapple Pie
  • Maple Bacon Funnel Cake from Funnel Cakes

What are your Minnesota State Fair favorites?  Share your tips and Fair traditions in the comments below.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

The crop art is always unique at the Minnesota State Fair.

Crop art from the 2010 Minnesota State Fair
Crop art from the 2010 Minnesota State Fair

A stop at the Agriculture-Horticulture “Ag-Hort” Building is a “must” for our annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair.  Displays of competitive entries range from Christmas trees, to honey and bee-related items, to flowers, to fruits and vegetables.  Crop art tops the list of my favorite competitions (with the scarecrows a close second).

An excerpt of the rules from the 2012 Ag-Hort-Bee Rules and Premiums booklet concerning the entry of crop art at the Fair reflects the complexity of the competition:

12. Materials

Only the following materials may be used:

A. Seeds, stems, heads or panicles, and fruiting bodies or structures of oats, wheat, barley, flax, rye, corn, soybeans, edible field beans, sunflowers, common buckwheat, field peas, millets, safflower, sorghum, sugar beet, sudan grass, common forage grasses (timothy, bluegrass, bromegrass and wild grasses, etc.), clovers, alfalfa, and wild rice. Crop plants shall be those specimens grown in Minnesota, white rice and sesame seeds can not be used.  Superintendent shall be the final authority regarding crops grown in Minnesota.

B. Seeds and dried fruiting structures only of any horticultural crop (vegetable and flower plants) which is suited or adapted for Minnesota are allowed in all lots. Forest, trees or shrub plant parts are allowed in lots 9-16 only. Weed seeds or plants are not permitted in any lot.

C.  Seeds can be in various forms such as whole. ground, rolled or cracked. If the seed display is either ground, cracked or rolled it can not exceed 20% of the area of the artist work.

D.  Permission to use materials other than the above must be obtained from the Superintendent.

E.  The use of plant parts or seeds other than those enumerated or specifically approved by the Superintendent will disqualify the exhibit.

F.  Backgrounds: Suitable backgrounds may be plywood, canvas board, heavy mat board, paneling, burlap (colored), linen, and suitable other fabric. Such backgrounds may not be painted in lots 1 and 2.  Masonite/hardboard cannot be used as a backing.

G.  Framing; see specific lot. When required to be framed, exhibit must be so framed. Suitable edging of seeds permitted in lieu of metal, wooden, or synthetic frames. Selection of frames should be such as to blend with the work involved.

H.  In lots 3, 4, 7 and 8, as indicated, 70% of the exposed area must be covered with seeds or plant parts.  In lots 1 and 2, the background should be covered using seed.

The “wearable crop art” competition includes some particularly peculiar and unique pieces of apparel!

Related Crop Art Posts (including photos of crop art from the 2012 Fair): 

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Unique” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Kat’s Weekly Reflection of Gratitude: The Privilege of Voting

One of the only blessings coming from Hurricane Sandy is a brief respite from the usual tenor of political campaigns at this juncture, with the election for President of the United States now only a few days away.  Other important offices, at the federal, state and local levels, are up for grabs in this election, as well.  In many states, important constitutional amendment questions are posed to the electorate, in some cases asking the populace to forever determine constitutional rights of others in our society.

Whatever your political affiliation — whether you swing left or right, red or blue, or like many, somewhere in the middle — spend the next few days educating yourself on the candidates and the issues that are going to present themselves on your ballot.  Really educate yourselves . . . I am not talking about reviewing the latest Facebook updates, tweets on Twitter or, as entertaining as it is, relying on the Daily Show as your sole source of political discernment.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd U.S. President)

Our sound bite society needs to spend some real time reviewing reliable, fact-based analysis of the critical issues facing our nation and communities as we decide for whom and for what we should vote.  (FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center is one source for bipartisan fact-checking on a variety of ads, issues, and often what are urban legends.)

The Lincoln Memorial ~ Washington, D.C.
The Lincoln Memorial ~ Washington, D.C.

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” ~ Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President)

Voting is a privilege that we should hold sacred.  Our vote is our voice in an election, no matter how quiet or small we may feel at times.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~ Alice Walker

Crop Art from the 2012 Minnesota State Fair
Crop Art from the 2012 Minnesota State Fair

Every vote counts.  Every vote matters.  If you have not participated in early voting, exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, November 6th.

“Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ‘Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ciao! ~ Kat