2. 1. The mind-blowing creativity of new foods
In addition to standard fair food like fried cheese curds and fresh mini donuts, each year brings the debut of insanely imaginative new dishes. This year you can try wine-glazed deep fried meatloaf, candied bacon cannoli, or cocoa cheese bites. And if you really dig the mini donuts, you can also try the new mini donut batter crunch ice cream. You can read the full list of new foods here.
7. 2. Dairy princesses carved in butter
Since 1954, one talented young lady has won the title of Princess Kay of the Milky Way—the top prize in a contest of young women whose families are involved in Minnesota’s dairy industry. The winner is selected from 12 finalists, all of whom get their likenesses carved into 90 pound blocks of butter. Oh, and how long does it take to carve 90 pounds of butter? About 8 hours.
8. 3. Seeing old friends, even in a sea of thousands
Last year’s average daily attendance at the fair was about 150,000. Even though the fair is huge—the 320 acres of permanent fairground are more than 3 times the size of the Mall of America—you still get the chance to see old friends. Like my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Molin, who taught me when I lived in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, more than 50 years ago. She’s the best.
9. 4. The tradition
I loved going to the fair as a kid, and for a lot of people in Minnesota, the fair has become one of the few times each year when entire families get together. Take, for example, this recent Star Tribune profile of Ed Ericksen, who’s gone 75 years in a row. Which is impressive. Especially considering that for two of those years, the fair was ACTUALLY CANCELED, but his Dad didn’t want to break with tradition, so they walked around the fairgrounds anyway. Here’s what things looked like at the fair back around 1928.
10. 5. Sweet Martha’s cookies
A state fair staple since 1979, Sweet Martha’s is known for their generosity: not only does each bucket come stacked with cookies so high that carrying it requires some serious concentration, but the operation is also known for sending cookies to troops overseas. 10,000 of them at a time.
And if you eat Martha’s at the fair, make sure to pair them with…
12. 6. All you can drink milk. For a buck.
There’s not many things you can buy for a dollar these days, let alone unbelievable milk. And they will refill your cup as many times as you’d like. Seriously. They usually go through about 20,000 gallons of it over the course of the fair.
13. 7. Seed art
These unbelievable works of art (also known as crop art) are made from thousands of seeds like barley, flax, or soybeans. The seeds must be Minnesota grown. And no rice or sesame seeds. Really. It’s in the rules. Take a look at a couple of amazing entries from last year’s fair. Followed by another fantastic work of crop art that was lent to my office.
16. 8. Minnesota sweet corn
It’s the best corn in the world. Oh, you don’t want to take my word for it? Then consider this: according to a 2011 Star Tribune article, the sweet corn stand sells 180,000 to 190,000 ears of corn over the fair’s 12-day run, all of it from a farm near Waverly, Minnesota.
18. 10. Fish pond
Seen a fish pond, you say? Well, you haven’t. Not really. Not until you’ve seen the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ fish pond, which boasts 45 different species of fish. Can’t make it to the fair this year? Then check out this 2010 underwater video of the pond, or this video of last year’s pond being stocked.
19. 11. The Music
At this year’s Grandstand, you’ll find acts like Macklemore, Tim McGraw, Depeche Mode, Sheryl Crow, and Dwight Yoakam. But there are stages throughout the fair where you can see musicians perform pretty much any time of day. And one night at the Grandstand, you can even hear a bunch of local musicians at a concert called Minnesota Music on a Stick. But my favorite? The Army Band, who I got to see in 2011.
20. 12. We make history
Vice President Teddy Roosevelt visited the fair in 1901, where he delivered his famous “speak softly, and carry a big stick” speech, in which he outlined his trademark foreign policy vision. Just a few days after the speech, President William McKinley was assassinated, and Vice President Roosevelt became President Roosevelt. But just to be clear, President McKinley wasn’t assassinated at the Minnesota State Fair. That happened in Buffalo, NY.
21. 13. The people
I love traveling around the state and hearing what’s on people’s minds. But the fair is the one time of the year where the state comes to me. And one of the things that I think makes Minnesota such a great state is that everyone is so engaged (our state consistently has the highest voter turnout in the country), which makes talking with Minnesotans the best part of my job. And while we’ve got great food and really cool stuff to see, at the end of the day, our state fair is tops because of the wonderful people who go year after year. And they are why I’m so honored to have this job.
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