How Not to Visit the Minnesota State Fair

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By Kevin Price, National News Editor, USADC.

When I was a kid growing up in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, Michigan, I always looked forward to the state fair — even thought it symbolically meant that summer was over and school was about to start.  I had not been to a state fair since my teens.  Sure, I’ve been to things similar to them, but not an actual state fair.  That is, until yesterday.

While visiting family I noticed that Minnesota was enjoying its annual fair and I decided to make a day of it, even though I could not get any buy in by others.  It was just me.  I arrived at around 11 in the morning and left around 8 pm.  I walked around 12 miles, according to my pedometer. I was exhausted, but in a good way.

This morning I debated writing about it and then saw a great article entitled “A Newbie at the Minnesota State Fair.”  With a title like that, it was certainly going to capture my attention.  I was a newbie yesterday and I was at that actual fair!  I wish I had seen the article a couple of days before because it was full of practical advice:

“Locals gush about the 80-plus different foods served on sticks, the beauty queens carved in 90-pound blocks of butter, the giant Ferris wheels and the 1,450-pound swine.

“They urge (or, better yet, compel) you to watch the Llama Costume Contest; to avoid the Kidway, whatever that is; to wear comfortable shoes; to take the SkyGlider chairlift instead of the Skyride because it’s better for photos; and to bring along a trusted guide.”

I certainly could have used the guide.  I found myself completely lost often and it was obvious I wasn’t covering the fair in the most efficient way.  Part of it is the sea of people, it is overwhelming.  Lucky me, this morning I found out that the fair broke another single day attendance record while I was there.  Local station KTSP reports “A total of 156,764 people came through the gates at the Minnesota State Fair Thursday, breaking a 23-year-old record for the day.” It is difficult to feel claustrophobic in a space of 322 acres, but I definitely figured out how to do at this fair.  Just as an aside, this state fair is the largest in the country. That seems obvious when you are standing in the middle of it.

I really did not understand how inefficient my coverage of the event was until I read the New York Times piece. I debated taking the “Sky Ride,” which would have given me a long break above the crowd and a panoramic view of all the food I would regret eating later.  I did not ride it though.  In fact, read the New York Times article so you know all the things I largely missed.  The fair ends tomorrow, so look at it for inspiration next year.

Here are a few observations and highlights (for me):

  • Best food.  I ate quite a bit, but not samples and certainly not enough to make a serious assessment.  However, for me, I was looking for food that was uniquely Midwestern (because of my Michigan roots).  I love Detroit style Coney Island hot dogs — steamed and brewed rather than grilled — and Peter’s Hot Dogs definitely offers them (these are virtually impossible to find in Houston, where I live now).  At $3 a hot dog, it is a great value. One of my favorite fish is Walleye, which is a Minnesota favorite and is largely reserved to states near the Great Lakes.  At the fair I enjoyed Walleye on a Stick.  It was a little pricey ($5 for a small piece), but I am not complaining.
  • The Minnesota State Fair is very political. I have never seen so many booths for political entities at any fair I have attended.  Minnesota is unique, the national Democratic party is not progressive enough for the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  It has its own DFL, which stands for Democratic-Farmer-Labor.  It is affiliated with the national party, but serves as a reminder that their candidates need to be extremely liberal.  I also saw the GOP, with a barker announcing “Make America Great Again” with mixed reactions from the crowd.  I also saw a booth by the Green Party and the Minnesota government itself.  I found this huge political presence at a state fair interesting.
  • Minnesota is very white. I saw a Black Lives Matter booth at the fair after being there for around an hour.  That was the first time I saw blacks there and with around 150,000 people there, I probably saw less than a dozen while at the event.  I looked it up online and found out that Minnesota is one of the most “white” states in the country, with close to 94% of the state being Caucasian. This is not a pro or con, just an observation.  I will say, having spent most of my life in very diverse places (like Houston, Texas), if anything I felt a little uncomfortable.
  • Minnesota State Fair has excellent entertainment.  For $14 you get a great deal of quality entertainment with your ticket.  While I was there I saw Cowboy Mouth from New Orleans, which is a very entertaining act.  Unfortunately for me, I missed one of my favorite bands, Tower of Power, there a few days before.  If you wanted to spend a little extra you could have seen Sugarland, The Beach Boys, and one of my favorite groups of all time — Earth, Wind, and Fire.

So, with all of this information, I think the takeaway is to really do your homework before you go to this or any state fair.  There is so much more one can take advantage of if they do just a little research.  State fairs, in spite of its fried food and sugar on demand, are still a blast.  They reckon back to earlier times and are worth a visit.  The Minnesota State Fair is particularly fun and could very well be a destination location.

In addition to being the National News Editor of USA Daily Chronicles, Kevin Price is host of the Price of Business Show, which is syndicated through USA Business Radio and one of the longest running business shows in the country. He is a multi-award winning journalist and frequent guest on various national media. 

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