Greetings from the great state of Minnesota, and The Great Minnesota Get-Together (also known as the Minnesota State Fair)! I had not heard about this fair prior to moving to MN. I had heard of the greatness of Texas and Ohio and apparently the Minnesota State Fair is right up there with them. It may be a bit smaller than Texas and Ohio State Fairs, but it sure does cram a lot into a small space. Hopefully this report will give some insight into why the Minnesota State Fair is one of the best in the nation.
My wife and I decided to visit on the first Saturday of the fair. We bought our tickets beforehand at a local grocery store (Cub for $12) tickets are normally $15 at the gate. We also purchased a book of ride tickets for $15 (normally $25). With tickets in hand, we headed to one of the free park and ride lots scattered around the cities where a bus picked us up and dropped us right at the front gate of the fair. The fair opens every morning at 6 am however, most of the buildings and attractions do not open until 9 am. We got to the fair around 8 so we had a little time to walk around and explore before crowds got crazy.
Our first stop was the information booth to get a map and schedule for the day. We also took advantage of the free sunscreen provided by the fair. We did note that the fair also provided ID wristbands to put on children in case they got lost.
We looked at the schedule and decided to go watch a show put on by the Minnesota Historical Society: History on a Schtick. It was really funny and we learned some things about Minnesota! Did you know that the Minnesota state muffin is blueberry?
After the show we were getting hungry so we decided to get a cone of Sweet Martha's cookies ($7). They also sell huge buckets of cookies ($17) and pile them high on top.
Fun fact: Sweet Martha's makes 3,166 cookies every minute. That's over 3 million cookies per day!
If you give a mouse a cookie.....he's going to want a glass of milk. What better place to get a glass of milk than the milk stand. For $2 you can drink all the 2% white milk or 1% chocolate milk you can drink.
This was by far my favorite thing at the fair. So much so, I came back and volunteered here later during the fair. I sold 328 glasses of milk and poured over 112 gallons of milk during my shift. Over the fair, they serve 26,000 gallons of milk!
We walked around for a bit and stumbled across the corn roast booth where we bought an ear of corn ($4). The corn is roasted in its husk and then dipped in a vat of butter and served. It was really good! Over the course of the fair, the corn booth goes through 4,000 lbs of butter.
We thought it was cool that instead of throwing away the cob, you could recycle it. They take it out to a local farm where it is used as compost.
This is the oldest food establishment at the fair, it started operating in 1897. It looked like they had good milkshakes!
They even have an Irish pub here at the fair with its very own bagpiper!
Another popular establishment at the fair is Fresh French Fries, they go through 145 tons of potatoes over the 12 day run of the fair.
And for all you die hard Minnesotans: Hotdish on a Stick!
Now that we had put ourselves in a food coma, we went around and looked at all the exhibits the fair had to offer. We started with what could be the most famous exhibit at the fair: butter sculptures! These sit in a room kept at 40 degF so they don't melt. Apparently after the fair, the subjects get to take home their bust and use it however they see fit (I think one girl was giving to her schools pancake breakfast)
Next was something Minnesotans are apparently very passionate about: crop art. So much so that there is always a 10-20 minute wait just to see the art. Now where's my fastpass....
I think my favorite piece was the cats with laser beams.
In the same building as the crop art, they were selling these apple cider freeze popsicles ($1.50). It seemed like everyone in the building had one.
Another exhibit was the Miracle of Birth center. We got to watch a baby pig be born. It was something I had never seen before, and a very unique thing to showcase at a fair. In addition to pigs, they also had live cow and sheep births.
The DNR had a really nice exhibit center with lots of fish tanks and a taxidermy walkthrough of Minnesota wildlife.
The DNR also has a fish pond at the fair. I don't know what it is, but there is just something therapeutic about watching Minnesotans look at fish.
The fair also has lots and lots of animal barns. We strolled through the cow and sheep barns and it took half hour or so. The fair also has an exhibit called Moo Booth in the cow barn. They have cow milking demonstrations and even let kids milk a cow!
On to the rides! I was kind of surprised that the fair didn't have the best midway. The midway is made up of several owners/companies so there are no pay one price wristbands. Rides tended to be between 5-6 tickets with tickets costing $1 each. Just because they didn't have the best midway doesn't mean they didn't have unique rides. The ride above was called beach party. I had never seen one before, it was kind of a tilt-a-whirl without the tilting platform. However they had cams under the ride to make the vehicles tilt to invoke a spinning motion.
They had a downdraft so of course I had to have a ride. Unfortunately they didn't run a long cycle like Knoebels does.
A spinning mouse! Other rides included a Spider, Rockstar, a Mondial Magnum, and a zipper.
The Minnesota State Fair also has a few permanent attractions one of which is a Von Roll Skyride ($4.50)!
I have been on a few of these but I've never seen one with enclosed buckets. The local news ran an article about the guy who owns the skyride; he apparently keeps a spare of every part and a spare generator because "Losing a day of business at the fair is like losing a month of normal business."
In addition to the skyride, the State Fair also has the sky glider, a chairlift type ride ($4.50).
Another attraction at the fair is the big ferris wheel ($5). It seems to be about the size of the one in Pigeon Forge or Myrtle Beach. I was surprised that a wheel this big could travel.
The state fair also has a space tower ($4).
And a haunted house ($4)!
Rat infested corridors, count me out!
They have a few upcharge animal exhibits around the fair such as the one seen here and a butterfly house.
The fair even has a permanent river rapids ride ($5). This is significant because it is Barr Engineering's first water ride. Barr Engineering went on to install the rapids rides at Valleyfair and Dorney Park. The company also designed American Plunge at Silver Dollar City and is currently working on Mystic River Falls.
When asking around what was a must do at the fair, everyone I talked to said I had to ride the giant slide ($2.50). It was really fun!
Coasters? We're not at a Cedar Fair park....
However they did have these really cool tilt-a-whirl seats repurposed as a table.
That's all from the Minnesota State Fair! We got together with 209,105 of our closest friends on Saturday and it was a fantastic time. If you're planning on visiting Valleyfair, I would definitely recommend you visit during the last week of August and also go to the Minnesota State Fair! Thanks for reading!