Spotlight on access – physical and virtual – at the 2014 Great Minnesota Get-Together!

The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt form normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life. – Robert MacIver, sociologist

It’s State Fair time — when new taste treats compete with cheese curds for olfactory prominence, military issue 4-H dorms house weary teens demo-ing the latest in control of frac-sand or groundwater pollution, research-in-progress shares space with Goldie Gopher at the aU of M show-and-tell. Still, as J.V. Bailey (for whom the building that now houses the Minnesota State Fair Foundation is named) observed the “the State Fair approaches in scope and effort an institution of learning.“

Writing in 1934 Bailey celebrated that “the State Fair teaches by exhibit, lecture and pamphlet, the means whereby two blades of grass can be grown with less cost and less effort than ever before.” A noble goal that has inspired, instructed and entertained Minnesotans of every era and every age for over 150 years!

Fair-going veterans and newbies alike are well advised to prepare for the adventure with a good online primer such as

http://www.mnstatefair.org/pdf/media/MSF_History.pdf. ( In case you’re tempted – or inspired to rectify the situation-  Wikipedia is out-of-date.)

The real wonder – and irresistible attraction – of the Minnesota State Fair is that the Fair continues to interpret, share and adapt the Minnesota story. The 2014 “Great Minnesota Get-Together” overflows with ideas, many having to do with access – for Fair attendees and for those who prefer a Virtual Fair Experience

Access on site

At the top of the list for many will be the increased accessibility of fair displays for people with disabilities. This includes the area that was once Heritage Square, now a new transit center, resplendent with restaurants, shops and heritage center. (Good to know that my favorite, the once-threatened Minnesota Newspaper Museum, lives on at the 4H Building!) Gone are the steps to the area that posed a barrier for anyone with mobility issues.

There are also more resources this year. Metro Mobility will have additional stops and ASL interpreters will be on hand. Wheelchair battery recharging can be found at the Care and Assistance Center.

There’s an Attraction Access Guide to assist fairgoers in making choices about rides available at all ticket outlets on the Midway and Kidway. Look for the free park and ride lot with free wheelchair-accessible bus service for people with disabilities and their companions.

This is but the tip of the physical access iceberg – The full range of expanded resources is spelled out in the most recent issue of Access Press on newsstands now – or find the issue online by clicking on http://www.accesspress.org/2014/08/new-history-museum-fairs-new-attractions-designed-for-access/?utm_campaign=987c871d8-RSS-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7c7ff77da6-9878c871d8-415185557

Access from home

Been there, done that and want to refresh the memories? Tried listening to the walking tour from home? There’s an app for that!   http://sites.mnhs.org/mobile-tours/web-app/#tour/tour-76/stop/stop-126 or call 1-877 411 4123 – listen and remember the sights, sounds and smells.

Want some visual background? Click on the inventory of photographs of the State Fair, 1953-1968 at the Minnesota Historical Society site: http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/sv000087.xmIH.M.Schawang photo company https://www.google.com/search?q=minnesota+state+fair+photographs&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=faDnU5vADJe0yASDlIDQCA&ved=0CB4QsAQ&biw=1553&bih=999

Even the prestigious Library of Congress pays archival homage to the Minnesota State Fair circa 1909 – www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007662332

And there are countless good reads and listens – histories, reminiscences, newspapers, podcasts, including these and more:

The Minnesota State Fair: Origins and traditions, by Kathryn R. Goetz, originally published in MNopedia, republished in MinnPost, August 20, 2013. A readable intro to the history of Minnesotans’ favorite gathering.

Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History, by Kathryn Strand Koutsky, Garrison Keillor, foreword by Linda Koutsky.   Coffee House Press, 2007

State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together, by Susan Lambert Miller, foreword by Lorna Landvik, Minnesota Historical Society.

Minnesota State Fair, The History and Heritage of 100 Years, by Ray P. Speer and Henry J. Frost, Argus Publishing Company, 1964.

Seed Queen:The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton, by Colleen Sheehy, Minnesota Historical Society, 2007.

Once again, Minnesota Public Radio is just one of the radio stations that will be broadcasting from their booth. Though with all of the politicians who will be roaming the grounds this season it’s hard to predict who will show up, here’s the link to MPR’s fair schedule: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/events/minnesota-state-fair/

History at the Fair

If you do go to the State Fair, don’t miss Minnesota History Day – Sunday, August 31. http://www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/events-programs/minnesota-history-center-day-state-fair

A critical feature of the re-designed area on the West end of the fairgrounds is the History and Heritage Center, home of the State Fair History Display. To keep up with plans for the history display follow developments on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minnesotastatefair

 

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