This Does Not Compute

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Minnesota State Fair 2011

It’s the end of August, so that means it’s time for the one thing that no one in Minnesota stops talking about: the State Fair.

Apparently, the Minnesota fair is the second largest in the US; I suspect we lose out to Texas only because theirs is like a month long or something. Ours only lasts about a week and a half, ending on Labor Day.

Kanai to watashi showed up early on Saturday, about 9:30. That’s still 3 hours after the Fair opens every day at 6:30 (I have no idea who would want to roam around that early). I had gone for a 5-mile run earlier and was pretty hungry, so the first stop was one of the food building where I knew they had decent Chicago dogs. I had gone to the Fair knowing full well that I intended to take a picture of everything we ate, but still managed to forget to snap one of the dog. It was just a regular Vienna Beef on its mandatory poppyseed bun, with all the Chicago fixins except for the sport peppers. It was unfortunately light on the mustard and atomic green relish, but it was still worth the $5.25 (yes, food at the Fair is expensive).

Next, my wife wanted to stop by the Red Cross booth and donate blood. 45 minutes later she emerged craving sweets. Conveniently, the Dairy (though it’s really more about anything cow-related) Building was next door, with a stand inside known for making great ice cream. We split this strawberry sundae, which was a relative bargain at $4.

Another big part of the Fair is the judging of various foods and livestock from farms around the state. Also inside the Dairy Building is where they hold the best-meat competition, and one wall has a cooler with all the entries. My favorite contender was Schmidt’s Meat Market from rural Nicollet, MN, about 80 miles southwest of the Minneapolis metro area. I can’t even begin to guess how much money we’ve dropped there over the years (or how many beef sticks we’ve bought).

One of the more well-known attractions at the Fair is the crowning of that year’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way, whose head is carved into a huge block of butter for all to watch.

Deep fried cheese curds are, next to the Chicago dog, the only other real thing on my Fair-going to-do list. $5.50.

This is the one thing my wife won’t stop talking about. It’s just a roasted ear of corn, but I think the seasoning they put on it is really crack instead of pepper. I make these at home for her all the time, but I don’t put the crack on them so she doesn’t like them as much. $3.

Weekends are, obviously, when the Fair sees its highest attendance numbers. It was only 11:30 when I took this picture, but the streets were already full of people.

I’ve never understood these big slides. People pay money to slide down a ramp on a piece of burlap or something. Yet if they waited 4 months, they could go outside, walk to the top of a hill and slide down it on a sled for free.

Next up, some of the animal barns where, yes, more judging takes place. They had one whole barn dedicated just to rabbits and fowl.

My wife got a bit worked up seeing these bunnies in cages. I reminded her that they were in the cages for just a couple days at most, and were frequently tended to by their owners (all had fresh food and water), but she still seemed to think that somehow they instead belonged in one big large pen where they could hop about. She was also surprised at just how large some breeds get (there were a few that were larger than our cat).

Surprising number of different breeds of chicken. You could tell which breeds were the egg-laying ones because in some cages were a couple eggs that the occupants had popped out.

The big Warner Coliseum holds different livestock-related events every day. This time it was the big cattle competition. Think of it as being like a dog show, but with cows instead. I didn’t care terribly for this, but the Coliseum is a great place to hang out if you want to get out of the sun and constant noise of the rest of the Fair. It’s cool, relatively dark, and quieter inside.


Built just a few years ago is the new Miracle of Birth building. They round of various livestock at the end of their gestational periods and put them out so folks can watch them give birth. When we visited, this calf was apparently only 4 hours old.

One thing I found interesting about the new building is the dichotomy of it being a barn, but having TVs all over the place. They replay previous births that had been filmed.

I don’t like fast-food piglets very much, since they keep them under heat lamps all day instead of cooking them fresh.

I don’t know how old these kids are, but they were pretty rambunctious already (and a favorite for getting petted by children).

All I could hear in the area around the ducklings were girls going “awwwwwww!” Kawaii, desu ne?

Exhausted from hatching. We were told that sometimes it takes 24 hours for a chick to finally work its way out of its shell. I don’t think it took Domo-Kun nearly that long.

Enough with the animals, time for a bucket o’ fries.

Can’t remember exactly how much this cost, maybe $5? The soda from this particular stand is probably the best deal at the Fair though, $2.50 for a 33-ounce cup (at most places you’re lucky to get 20 ounces for $3).

Various fruits and vegetables on display in the Agriculture building. Honeycrisp are my favorite, developed in St. Paul by the University of Minnesota. Sadly they’re not available year-round, so I get Fuji apples if Honeycrisp aren’t available.

Not sure what makes for a winning apple, but these sure look tasty.

I had no idea that people grew grapes in Minnesota.

That explains a lot.

The State Fairgrounds are located in urban St. Paul, and as such there is woefully little by way of parking lots or ramps nearby. A large number of folks get to the Fair by using free park-and-ride shuttles from neighboring cities. For those who want to park close to the fair, the residents in the neighborhood next to the Fairground charge people to park on their lawns and driveways. It’s usually about $20 or so, and you have to leave your car keys with the attendant as they have to shuffle cars around to be able to get them in and out (cars are packed in pretty tightly to maximize the number they can fit). We drove ourselves to the Fair, but my wife has a coworker who lives just a few blocks away so he let us park on his driveway for free.






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