The Minnesota State Fair (otherwise known as the Great Minnesota Get Together) might just be the most popular state-wide tradition of the whole year. There are so many things to do that you can make the fair experience totally personalized based on your individual interests. To some people, the fair is all about the food and they go as hungry as possible. Others go for the music, politics, people watching, rides or the animals. This year was the first time I brought my nice camera to document the whole experience and in honor of yesterday being the last day of this great tradition, I’m sharing some of my favorite photos.
If you’re ever in Minneapolis at the end of August, I highly recommend you check it out!
Spanning the 12 days leading up to Labor Day, Minnesotans look forward to the fair for the entire year, starting the minute that it ends. People and vendors drive for hours and hours just to take part in the event, and I’ve heard rumors that we have the best state fair in the whole country! I might be biased though… you think?
There is no other gathering that brings together such a wide variety of people – you get the young, old, teens, city, country, suburb people. You can see newscasters, local politicians, artists, farmers and representation from your favorite food establishments. This year in particular we couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed like they were having such a great time! That’s not to say that people aren’t usually enjoying themselves, but you definitely see the strung-out parent screaming at their kids every once in a while. Minnesota State Fair 2013, not so much!
I go for a few main reasons: the chance to walk around outside for an entire day, the food, animals, culture buildings and media booths.
Every year, there is a ton of hype around the new foods that are offered (most likely on-a-stick) and if you’re like most Minnesotans and you do your research, you have a list of items that you plan on hunting down once you get there. Keep in mind, a lot of the same vendors are there every year so you definitely have to save room for your favorites like Sweet Martha’s Cookies, the Fresh French Fries and all-you-can-drink milk for still only $1.
I am really satisfied with the food that we got to try this year. The Roasted Sweet Corn is an absolute must, no matter what. The stand is family-owned and has been in operation for as long as I can remember. They pick the sweet corn the night before and roast it right in front of your eyes. At the stand right next door, I noticed a sign for frozen grapes (at the same place they sell fried alligator – what?)! Being someone who eats frozen grapes regularly, I needed to check out the state fair version of one of my favorite frozen treats. They were as refreshing as I expected them to be!
Another food item that we had been hearing a lot about was the ice cream at the Minnesota Farmers Union. We got a mango ice cream bar and some coffee with vanilla ice cream (which was their version of Affogato, I think). Although a bit expensive, both were absolute perfection. The ice cream was so creamy (not icey or airy at all, which ice cream often is) with big chunks of real fruit in it.
Following dessert, it was time for lunch. I was in the mood for something fairly healthy to set me up for some good energy for the rest of the day, but finding that at the fair is pretty darn difficult. I came across this stand that specialized in chicken and veggie bowls, with additional toppings and sauces added on to make a variety of different types (Mexican, Italian, Greek, etc.). I got the Greek chicken bowl that came with garlic rice, tomato, lettuce, cucumber and a homemade tsatziki.
Later it was time for another round of dessert and drinks (obviously) so I got some hot cinnamon-roasted almonds and hunted down one of the items that we came there wanting to try; the middle-eastern mint lemonade slushie. Hands down, it was my favorite item I’ve ever gotten at the fair. It was ice cold, tart and minty all at the same time, with the ingredients being in perfect proportion to one another. I swear, there is some crazy secret recipe to this drank and I am determined to figure it out!
We ate so many things that aren’t pictured here like Wallaye on a stick, chicken skewers, a chocolate malt, mini doughnuts… Maybe a few lemonades snuck their way in there, too. The point is this: the state fair is a time to relax and enjoy eating whatever you want. Go with a big group of people who don’t mind sharing so you can taste like… A million things.
Even though the food is the highlight of the fair for most people, there are so many other fun things to do in between meals. One activity that I look forward to every year is visiting all of the animal barns, especially then birthing center where they have a bunch of newborn farm animals. Can you see why every year I seem to think it would be a good idea to adopt a baby sheep?! I want.
The Eco building is another highlight for me. They have all sorts of displays about energy efficiency, sustainability and organic farming – right up my alley. This display was probably my favorite; it’s a vertical garden which is a great way to conserve space while designing something that is also visually appealing.
And last but not least, it is always family tradition to end the night with a ride on the Ferris wheel. The view from the top is so fun and colorful, as it looks over the whole Midway of rides. What a beautiful way to end the night! It’s only after you are walking back to the car that you realize how badly your feet hurt, but you can’t get mad about it.
Well that’s about it for my experience at the Minnesota Stats Fair! I hope you get to visit it someday. I’m already getting excited for 2014!
What about you? Does your state have a big fair every year? What’s it like?