Eight Ways to Get into the Fair Spirit (or at Least Eat Fried Food)

It’s still not the Minnesota State Fair, but here’s a round up of events to partially fill the void left this summer
The two state fair mascots riding on a golf cart

Natalie Hall

Yes, the Minnesota State Fair is one of the many casualties this year. To help assuage the pain a bit, here are some events with state fair tie-ins. (I won’t delve into the sold-out State Fair Food Parade, but if you’re really desperate, hit up your local radio giveaways and the like).

Tim McGraw’s Live Virtual Show

Our would-be grandstand headliner, Tim McGraw, has a virtual event on August 21 in celebration of his new album, Here On Earth. The livestream promises music (of course), anecdotes, and perhaps some Q&A, so if you were ready to don a cowboy hat and grab a beer, you still have a reason to—you can just be in your pajamas at the same time. Sadly, for the rest of our headliners (NF, Miranda Lambert, the Doobie Brothers, and ventriloquist Darci Lynne), you’ll have to settle for old videos. 

For other concert streams, check out Live Nation’s hub or support First Avenue by using its links to access virtual concerts by Dawes, Sasami, or Angel Olsen (whose donated portion goes to the National Independent Venue Association).

Sever’s Storytelling Experience

For a whimsical time with your little ones, drive down to Shakopee to Sever’s. Instead of traversing the giant corn maze (opening September 11!), you’ll be going on a three-quarter-mile drive through fields that hold hidden stories such as a gigantic chicken samurai, zany squirrel, and legends of a humongous treasure hunt. Check out Sever’s Stories, Riddles, & Rhymes Thursdays through Sundays starting August 21 through November 1.

Brew Up Your Love for the Fair

We love the state fair, and we love our craft breweries, so have a little bit of both with these two events. Dive deep into the state fair’s history with themed trivia at Under Pressure Brewing Co. (and some cheese curds from Cheese Curd Tacos food truck) on Thursday, August 27. Over at Fair State Brewing Cooperative, you can raise a pint to state fair kitsch in the beer garden from that Thursday through Sunday, including animal ear headbands, sno-cones, cotton candy, and those quintessential hay bales.

The Minnesota State of UnFair

The only state fair part of this event may be its punny title, but we need all the laughs we can get. Classic Alley Performers is back and streaming from Strike Theater’s Facebook page August 28-30, and they’re ready to release a whole weekend of sketch comedy. As the description says, “See what Dr. Fauci has been up to when not at work. Meet a strange woman who documents your dreams. Find out what Meredith’s cat has eaten. It’s gonna be fun.”

Fine Arts Exhibition Event

One of the year’s few official state fair events, the Fine Arts Exhibition Event runs the same days the fair would with a free online video tour or an in-person gallery visit at the Fine Arts Center. See some of the best pieces of artwork in the state across sculpture, oil paints, drawings, ceramics, photography, ceramics, and more.

Renaissance Festival’s Feast of Fantasy

The Renaissance Festival is by no means the state fair, but it’s synonymous with this time of year. In case you didn’t hear the news, the Renaissance Festival will not be holding its annual event this year, but it can still hold its new Feast of Fantasy events. Starting August 22 through October 3, these socially distanced, outdoor feasts include two hours of entertainment, a mug to take home, and a hearty six-course meal (vegetarian and gluten free meals available on request). While the entertainment is catered to adults, a special Family Friendly Feast featuring fairies and music will be held September 27.  

Stuff Your Stomach

We already covered the Facebook group that tracks state fair food, and Betty Danger’s all-inclusive experience includes fried chicken, cocktails, and the Ferris wheel. On top of that, though, there are plenty of events popping around the metro. 

Think food trucks at Cub, state fair themed delights paired with gourmet tea at the Nicollet Island Inn on August 26, and Fair Food Fundays on August 28 and 29 at the Otten Bros. Garden Center & Landscaping. The latter has a smorgasbord of goods including corn dogs, loaded tater tots, mini doughnuts, freshly squeezed lemonade, and deep fried Oreos, Twinkies, and strawberry shortcake. For a couple hours on both days, you can get additional refreshments from the Produce Exchange, and if you’re missing the fair’s horticulture building, make sure to walk among the garden center’s flowers.

For an event focused more on the local farming community, check out a restaurant pop-up by the Minnesota Farmers Union and Birchwood Cafe. Located in the former Spoonriver space in downtown, F + B will serve the fair favorite BLT and more for curbside pickup and patio seating Thursdays through Sundays, August 20-30.

Miss the Farm Animals?

Besides exotic species like the amur tigers and golden lion tamarins, the Minnesota Zoo is full of local animals including all the ones you like to visit in the state fair’s barns. For more horse action, visit the live races at Canterbury Park. While there aren’t any barrel races, the creative horse names will hopefully make up for it.

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