When the news broke that the 2020 Minnesota State Fair was canceled, Lori Lexvold had a reaction that was likely similar to most Minnesotans: “I was kind of sad that it wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t be able to get the treats that I like to get when I do go to the Fair.”
But, while the rest of us were wallowing knowing that we would have to wait another year for the Great Minnesota Get-Together, Lexvold took action.
“I thought, well, a lot of these vendors, what are they going to be doing now all summer? If they don’t have the State Fair or the county fairs to be able to set up—what’s going to happen, you know, for their revenue that they usually get?” she says.
With a few clicks, she created the Fair Food Finder Facebook group, a place for people to share when and where vendors would be selling their deep-fried delights all across the Twin Cities. What started as just a simple social media group soon went viral. In the 20 days since Lexvold created it, the group now boasts more than 100,000 members.
“I had no idea it would explode like it did. I just thought [it would be] a few friends helping each other find their favorite food. … And so then when we got the first call from the Rochester station about doing an interview, I was like ‘Wow, this is important to people?’” Lori laughs, “I’m just kind of in awe of the way the word has spread to other people.”
As the Fair Food Finder page started to grow, Lexvold’s son, Ian, wanted to help make the fair food hunting a bit easier. He decided to create a Google Map to pin vendors’ locations so that people could find the shortest route to the nearest cheese curds or mini doughnuts.
Now Ian and Lori moderate the group together, and although it’s much more taxing than they anticipated—the two personally approve every post—for the Lexvolds, it’s a labor of love.
Lori grew up close to the fairgrounds, and as a child, she would spend nearly every day there. More recently, Lori and Ian have volunteered at the State Fair with their church group for over a decade, helping run a free park and ride, and they have also put in volunteering hours cleaning the Grandstand and food service buildings after hours.
Because the State Fair means so much to them, the Lexvolds understand its importance to the Minnesota community at large. For them, the Fair Food Finder project is a small way for them to connect Minnesotans hungry for a taste of summer tradition, and vendors who rely on fairs to keep their businesses afloat.
“One [vendor] said that a lot of people came up to his food truck and mentioned the Facebook page, and it was just kind of amazing and nice to see that what we created is helping people,” Ian says.
If you’re looking to add to the Fair Food Finder map, Ian suggests creating a post that has detailed descriptions of what, where, when, and how long your favorite vendor will be setting up shop. If you’re simply looking for some fair food inspiration, Ian’s current favorite is the French onion monkey bread, while Lori recommends going on the hunt for egg rolls.