30 Sep The Minnesota State Fair: Crazy Food, Animals and Butter Heads!
Let me start off by saying we aren’t really fair people; something about fairs usually rubs me the wrong way. That being said—I don’t know what it is about the Minnesota State Fair, but we always have a great time. Maybe it’s because of the time spent with friends, maybe it’s the delicious and crazy food, or maybe it’s just because it’s summer in Minnesota; whatever the case, we actually look forward to this one fair in particular.
Each year, the last day of the fair is Labor Day and the start date is 12 days prior. Attendance broke records this year, with over 1.8 million people stopping by the Great Minnesota Get Together. In fact, the state fair is such a big deal in Minnesota that there is actually a law that most schools cannot start their school year before Labor Day unless they get a waiver. Because Minnesota has such a short summer season this law is in place for the fair and state tourism—if school starts before Labor Day, families are less likely to take vacations over the long holiday weekend and it really hurts the tourism industry. It also prevents many students from working their summer jobs at the fair.
We ended up heading to the fairgrounds twice this year with different groups of friends. It’s a good thing, too, because we never could have tried as many different foods as we did without sharing and spreading it over a couple of days. Typically, I think fair food is horrible, but there are so many items at the Minnesota State Fair that are absolutely delicious and taste better there than anywhere else. And, don’t even get me started on the crazy food and drink concoctions that the vendors come up with—ok, I guess I got myself started. Some interesting combinations that we didn’t sample are the deep-fried lobster on a stick, hot toasted waffle ice cream sandwich, deep-fried breakfast on a stick, Jello salad ice cream, beer gelato, pizza tots, pretzel curds, chocolate dessert salami, and shrimp dog. Those were just a few of the new items this year, too—there are heaps more from previous years that just keep coming back.
There just wasn’t enough money, stomach room or time in two days to try all the food we wanted, but here are some of the foods we sampled:
The obligatory Papa Pup, aka very large corn dog.
Fried pickle sample pack–traditional, cajun spiced, and filled with cream cheese. I am in love with these pickles, seriously. The crispy, flavorful batter and thick cut pickles is delicious, especially with the funky combinations–I can’t decide which one I like best!
Spaghetti on a stick. Yes, I am serious. It consists of a meat and noodle meatball that is deep-fried and dipped in spaghetti sauce. It has been around for a few years, and this was the first time we tried it, and let’s just say we will probably be getting it again next year!
Apple cider pops are so refreshing on a hot day–they are basically apple cider popsicles, and they are cheap too! They cost right around $1 which is a welcome price in our book.
Mini donut beer with a rim of cinnamon and sugar. Yes, you read that right, and yes, it was surprisingly good!
So good I had to get it twice–Dole Whip is one of my favorite treats ever, and the Minnesota State Fair one of the few places in the world that sells it. I am obsessed and snap it up every chance I get.
Corn may sound like a boring choice, but if you’ve ever had fresh corn from the midwest, you understand. It is delicious, fresh and irresistible with a slathering of butter and salt.
I’m always a sucker for giant pretzels, but most of the time they really aren’t that great. There is one stand at the fair that makes the most amazing giant pretzel ever–sadly, I’m not sure what it’s called, but I know it has a green awning and options like salt and butter, garlic, cinnamon and sugar and more. These pretzels are so soft and delicious that I find myself craving them throughout the year. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a substitute that lives up to these yet!
Cheese curds are another item not to be missed–The Mouth Trap makes the best deep-fried cheese curds around!
Sweet Martha’s Cookies are a crowd favorite–these overflowing buckets make Sweet Martha the most profitable vender at the fair, by a long shot. They are super delicious, and perfect for sharing–as you can see, you will have to eat the heaping pile of cookies on top in order to even close the bucket!
Minnesota Wine Country offers both food and wine. If you feel like sampling a few different wines, get a wine flight and try them out–your choices are red, white, fruit or dessert. This flight was filled with fruit wines: rhubarb, raspberry and summer blush.
The Nitro ice cream was pretty delicious; although, it was so rich that I wasn’t able to have more than a couple bites. Micah loved it though, and it’s definitely an interesting treat to try out!
OK, so this one we didn’t actually try, but hot dish is so Minnesotan that I just had to take a picture–put it on a stick and it makes the perfect fair food! I’m definitely going to have to try it out next year.
Even though for many the fair is mostly about the food, there are other ways to keep busy as well. There are big name concerts every night at the grandstand, smaller music shows around the grounds, rides, parades, fireworks, all sorts of animal and agriculture barns and lots of shopping and exhibits.
Even though I typically don’t like the rides or games found in the Midway, I always enjoy walking through the area, especially at night when everything is lit up. The one fair ride I do like, however, is the skyride–it is a chairlift type ride that takes you over a good portion of the fair, and it offers great areal views of the grounds!
The Miracle of Birth barn is so much fun—not because I particularly want to see animals giving birth, but because it is filled with adorable baby animals!
One of my favorite strange displays is housed in the Dairy Barn: Princess Kay of the Milky Way Butter Heads. Yes, you read that right, butter heads. In an annual competition, counties throughout the state nominate young women, whose family is involved in the dairy production business, in hopes they will become the next dairy princess. There are 12 finalists selected and the crowning takes place the night before the fair opens. Then comes my favorite part—at the fair, the finalists have their heads carved into a 90 lb. block of butter. The princesses get to keep the heads and do with them what they please; I’m not sure what everyone does with their head, but I have heard that some save the heads in the freezer and others host a corn roast and use the butter there.
With all the strange antics that happen at the fair, it definitely makes for an endearing, if not slightly bewildering experience. We always love going and can’t wait for next year!
Do you like going to fairs? What’s your favorite fair food?