“The Great Minnesota Get-together”, or Minnesota State Fair, is the largest state fair in the U.S. by average daily attendance. * Residents of the state come to the fair to be entertained, exhibit their best livestock, show off their art and cooking, learn about new products and enjoy a wide variety of food … often on a stick. In 2015 the 12-day Minnesota State Fair was named the best state fair in the United States by readers of USA Today. And I’m excited to be attending again. I think this is my third or fourth time.
Since its inception, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.
The character of early fairs was dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions, reflecting its original purpose of encouraging farming in the state. While agriculture is still the primary focus, the scope of activities has broadened to include large-scale entertainment features, technological and industrial exhibits, and scores of education and government institutions.
A whimsical addition to the fair were the Peanuts statues. Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Saint Paul. In honor of the man who created such joy The Peanuts Character Project was created in 2000. To date there are more than 500 Peanuts statues created by artists located around Minnesota.
As integral to the Minnesota State Fair as the tractor, seed displays, and the baking competitions is the seemingly endless list of food vendors. This year the fair introduced 32 new foods – mostly containing bacon. My friend Carol and I had our share of samples: cereal, Kemps popsicle, tea, maple syrup, pretzels in dip, etc. Once we were full of appetizers it was time to burn through my cash to taste and rate the new foods. Happily, I enjoyed my Rustic Beef Pastry: Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and spinach topped with creamy goat cheese nestled in a flaky crust. I washed it down with a fizzy, gently fermented watermelon kombucha. My taste buds weren’t satisfied until I found desert in the form of the delightfully unique honey sunflower custard ice cream. I especially liked that it’s made at the University of Minnesota using only Minnesota honey. http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-state-fair-food-finds-and-flops-ranked/391413971/#1
Besides eating, the event I had my heart (and vocal cords) set on was the Giant Sing Along. This participatory public art experience was created by Montreal-based artists Daily tous les jours. The extensive song list is chosen by fair fans and plays continuously from 9am – 9pm. We sang our hearts and lungs out! https://youtu.be/eS1GRofHPhs
I could go on and on about my day. There’s even a Minnesota State Fair app to help visitors navigate to events and food! Honestly, there’s too much see and too much to tell to do it justice. Check out everything this award winning fair has to offer at: http://www.mnstatefair.org/
*Daily attendance on opening day this year was 111,902 and last Friday a new record 141, 023 people eating food on a stick! I am interested in finding out what the attendance total I contributed to today. It was a sea of people in every direction.