By Brenden Nickels
KA Cultural Blogger Brenden Nickels is a senior office assistant at Kraus-Anderson’s Twin Cities office.
For twelve days in late August and early September, it seems like everyone makes an annual pilgrimage to Falcon Heights, Minnesota and pays a visit to the Minnesota State Fair, also known as “The Great Minnesota Get-Together.” While it is bittersweet to some (kids have to go back to school and before you know it, winter will be here!), it also serves as both a celebration and a showcase of our state and our culture. It serves as a way to promote farming in our state, especially to city people. It serves as a way for young people to make some money working for a vendor or show off their crafts or their animals before school starts. And of course, it’s an opportunity to sample many different foods, especially those deep-fried and/or on a stick.
KAers have their own Minnesota State Fair traditions
Just like with others that go to the Fair, Kraus-Anderson employees have their own special traditions. KA’s Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, Tom Emison, works at the MS Society booth with his wife Pam, who has MS herself. However, like with most fairgoers, they are food-based.
Fresh, Fried and Oof-da: Food Draws
Project Accountant Mari Gronquist says: “My boyfriend and I set goal weights we want to reach by the 23rd and if we make those goals, we are going to go to the fair and stuff ourselves silly with junk foods that we normally can’t eat.” Project Engineer Josh Carr likes to take a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies to the all-you-can-drink milk stand. Realty Administrative Assistant Latrice Dasher, even though she’s only gone twice in her life, likes the stand too, as well as the fresh sweet corn at the Corn Roast. And Cash Management Specialist Jody Foster has become fond of the Oof-da Tacos stand on Dan Patch and Cooper in front of the DFL booth.
A Family Tradition
I, myself, am a Fair fanatic. My family has been going consistently to the Fair annually since 1992. What we do is we drive our car to the University of Minnesota campus, park it there, and take a free shuttle to the Fairgrounds. We usually split off and do our own things at the Fair, but we do meet up at 2:00 pm to see the parade, or if we’re seeing a show at the Grandstand or Bandshell, we’ll then meet half an hour before that.
What I usually do is I go multiple times, usually four times, because there’s so much to do at the Fair, you just can’t do it in one day. I plan it out, like one day I’ll go to the 4H and Fine Arts Building, another I’ll visit the barns and the Coliseum, and another I’ll hit the Mighty Midway. But most of the time, I’ll just walk around or sit down on a bench and just people-watch.
There are those of us that go only once or twice just out of curiosity, and there are those that look forward to it as we get closer to the first day like I do. But whether if you’re visiting from someplace else, or an annual tradition, you can agree, you kind of feel proud of this state and what we’re about.
Bonus tips to making the Minnesota State Fair a fun experience
Take the bus: If you’ve read my previous blogs on public transportation, you’d know that one of the advantages of taking Metro Transit is that you can get anywhere on the bus or the train. The State Fair is no exception. You can get to the Fair on any of these routes:
- 3, which goes from Downtown Minneapolis to Downtown St. Paul, stopping near the Fairgrounds on Como.
- 61, which also goes from Downtown Minneapolis to Downtown St. Paul (the longer way), stopping near the Fairgrounds on Larpenteur.
- A Line, which goes from the 46th Street Station in south Minneapolis to Rosedale, stopping near the Fairgrounds on Midway Parkway to the Fairgrounds or Snelling and Como from the Fairgrounds.
- 960, which goes from Downtown Minneapolis to the Fairgrounds, making stops on Hennepin Avenue beforehand. (This route operates only during the Fair.)
When my parents and I go to the Fair, what we do is we park our car on the University of Minnesota campus, and we take a free shuttle over to the Fairgrounds. There are several other free park-and-ride lots around the metro area. There are also park-and-ride lots in the suburbs, but those have a $5 fare to them. It’s more efficient and hassle-free. (It’s also money-saving too, since parking your car at the grounds is $14.)
If you don’t like the crowds, go in the morning (or on the first day)
If you’ve got a favorite fair food, like cheese curds or Sweet Martha’s cookies, get them in the morning. That way you get them fresh, and you have already enjoyed them before the lines get long, and they do get long, especially on the weekends (since most people don’t have school and/or work then). I recall once being in the record crowd of 260,374 people in 2014 on the Saturday before Labor Day (which has since been surpassed), and how I went through the whole sea of people to get some sweet corn at the Corn Roast (which was my first time there, by the way.) According to Minnesota Public Radio News, the first day and the Tuesday and Wednesday of the Fair are the least crowded days, so those would be the dates to go to if you don’t want to face the long lines or accidentally bump into a fellow fairgoer.
Go multiple times
There’s just so much stuff at the Fair that it’s just impossible to do it all in one day. You’d tire yourself out. I, myself, go around four times. Divide it up as well and plan out what you’re going to do/see. One day, go see the animals, the next time, hit the Mighty Midway, the next, go up Machinery Hill, you get the idea.
Get a Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon Bargain Book
For $5 the Fair sells a coupon book that has about 150 deals for food, drinks, and merchandise. One coupon that they have that I use often is at Steichen’s Grocery (it’s a little convenience store/deli in the alley behind the Sheep and Poultry barn and a few steps away from the DNR), where you can get $5 off a meal deal consisting of a customized sandwich, chips, potato salad, pickle, and can of soda. Normally, that would cost $15, but with the coupon, it’s only $10. Perfect lunch for a hot summer day.
Try something new
Of course, stick to your traditional favorites, but no Fair is ever the same. There’s a new food and/or attraction everytime, and who knows, maybe you may start another Fair tradition to add to the ones you already have. For instance, the first Grandstand show that I went to was Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett in 2002, my 11th Fair. Now, depending on the acts that are playing, we’ll usually go to a Grandstand show and/or a free show at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell.
See the parade
At 2:00pm each day, going in one loop from the Dairy Building up Machinery Hill and back down again, the Fair holds a parade which just like the Fair itself, is different every day. While there are some fixtures in the parade, such as the big bull promoting the Minnesota Beef Expo that ends the parade, there are different floats and different marching bands every day. My favorite place to watch the parade is the start of the route on Judson and Underwood, near the Haunted House and the International Bazaar. That way you can watch the whole parade non-stop and not have to worry about it being broken up by the crowd.