The Minnesota State Fair

Pro tip: If you plan to eat your way through the Minnesota State Fair, take seven other people with you. Everyone gets a bite of whatever concoction is on offer and no one goes home with the meat sweats. Win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win. Eight wins!

It takes a goodly amount of time to get from one place to another when you’re traveling in a pack that big, but it’s worth it. We ate a lot of different kinds of food and drank a lot of different kinds of beer and bore witness to all of the superlatives – the longest string bean, the biggest pumpkin, the tastiest processed meat – and all in the company of new friends. (Ryan grew up here in Minnesota, so he’s got connections to the good people).

The Highlights

You look like butter, baby – Tucked into the corner of the Diary Building, past the milk and yogurt vendors and next to the display cases full of top prize cheeses, is a hexagonal room with glass walls. Inside this structure are two people. They are bundled up against the cold. The room is refrigerated. It is slowly rotating. Along the edges are large blocks of butter weighing 90 pounds each. The woman in the center of the room is carving one of those blocks into the likeness of the other woman (a teenager, really), who sits for six to eight hours until her sculpture is complete. This is a thing that has happened here since 1964. And this year there was a special guest:

Is this not magnificent? Alex Trebek showed up at the butter carving refrigerator. It has been 15 years since he shaved his mustache, but it’s still shocking to see him without it. Also, you guys…butter sculptures. Photo by Tricia.

Seed art – I never would have thought that seeds could be used as art. I mean, beyond the really bad stuff we did in elementary school with Elmer’s glue and popcorn kernels. Folks are super talented with these seeds. I love these a lot.

The food – To come to the Fair is to eat yourself silly. As noted earlier in this post, if you have lots of friends along for the ride you end up not overindulging. This is key because there are SO MANY fun things to eat. By far the best food (IMO) was the candied bacon BLT over at the Blue Barn. We also tried chicken fried bacon (not good, sadly), mini donuts, pickle dogs, walleye-stuffed mushrooms, cheese curds (naturally), corn dogs, buttered sweet corn…oh, the list goes on and on.

Corn on the cob. You buy a ticket, then proceed to the pickup station where they butter, salt, and pepper your corn cob. Then you stand on the sidewalk with hundreds of your new best friends and get corn stuck in your teeth. It’s delicious. Photo via Star Tribune
Behold, the pickle dog. It’s a dill pickle rolled up with cream cheese and pastrami. The fire dog, which is the pickle dog plus jalapenos, won our group’s survey of the best food at the Fair. Photo via Bon Appetit.
The candied bacon BLT. Crispy candied bacon, slaw, and green tomato jam on a sweet egg bun. Sounds like too much sweet, but is so freaking good. Photo via.
It’s a bucket of diabetes! Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookie bucket. A mainstay of the Fair. And just a few steps away is an all you can drink milk stand. Photo by Tricia.

The people – The Fair is a great place for people watching. There are thousands of people there on any given day, and they’re all getting along. Seriously, you’ve never been to an event that’s this crowded with so few cops around. It’s brilliant. Everyone is happy to be at the Fair.

A view from the fair. Photo by Tricia.

The Lowlights

Aside from the disappointing chicken fried bacon, the only thing I feel compelled to warn anyone about is the traffic and the parking. But, really, isn’t traffic and parking part of the headache for any event where lots of people show up? Get in early, cough up the parking fee or avail yourselves of the shuttles, and chill. It’s the Minnesota State Fair. If I haven’t inspired you to plan a trip out to Minneapolis next year, let Garrison Keillor take it home.


  1. There is a restaurant here in town with a sign advertising “Wisconsin Cheese Curds”. I almost went in just to say I’d tried them…but I’ll wait till I’m in Wisconsin!
    And my friend Other Jill actually made one of those seed art creations! Woot!


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