Minnesota's Biggest Party

The last big party of the summer. The final bit of fun before school starts. That’s right, the Minnesota State Fair starts today. The State Fair is such a Minnesota tradition, a celebration of our heritage, agriculture, business, and just plain fun. Since it first began in 1859, the State Fair has actually grown to become not only one of the largest fairs in the country but also one of the largest and best-attended events in the world, according to fair executives. Nearly 2 million visitors are expected to pass through the gates to view the livestock, ride a carousel, or try a fried candy bar on a stick.

I love the interesting bits of fair trivia. For one, I didn’t know that there are nearly 170 baby animals born during the fair each year. Nor did I know that an American President delivered a famous speech at our state fair: Teddy Roosevelt uttered his well-known phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick” during a speech in 1901. In this election year, you can be sure that many politicians will be on hand to share their views and shake a few hands.

Photo by Todd Buchanan

For those who make the fair a regular part of their summer fun, you will know that one of the fun things to do at the fair, of course, is eat. Each year, new menu items appear from many vendors; this year is no exception. Try the bacon ice cream at any of the Rainbow Ice Cream’s five locations, or the Eggplant Fries from the Midtown Global Market, or for dessert-lovers, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Puppies from Granny’s Kitchen Fudge. If you can’t decide what to taste next, try The Fair Shake app, which will map your route to your favorite food vendor, sort selections by food category, or will randomly select a treat when you give your iPhone a shake.

Many big-ticket concerts usually draw large crowds to the fair as well. This year’s Grandstand concert calendar includes country acts Alan Jackson and Blake Shelton, a star on the television series The Voice. Other acts include big ‘80s rock groups Journey, Loverboy, Kiss, and Motley Crue. 89.3 The Current is hosting an evening of Minnesota music called MN Music On-A-Stick featuring Semisonic, The Jayhawks, Dessa, Jeremy Messersmith, and Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles.

Check out the Fair’s website for more information about planning your trip. Bike, take a bus, or drive to one of these convenient park and ride locations—park for free and ride for free, between 8 a.m. and midnight. For info on the go, download the 2012 Minnesota State Fair app, available for both Android phones and iPhones. There’s more than one way to make your plans to join Minnesota’s Great Get-Together.

The Minnesota State Fair
1265 North Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
651-288-4400, mnstatefair.org