Tag Archives: Great Minnesota Get Together

Featuring Fun Food for the Mind at the Fair

The Snelling Avenue Bridge is re-opened – a good sign that the Great Minnesota Get Together must be nigh. As always, the state’s highways and by-ways are at the ready for action – in fact, they are already teeming with vendors, exhibitors, builders, chefs, entertainers, transit drivers and others converging on the Fairgrounds to do what needs to be done to ensure that all is in readiness for Thursday, August 27, when the gates open!

Liberal arts majors and their progeny may want to take note of some Fair favorites that are long on bargain, short on deep fried edibles.

Representatives of the Minnesota Historical Society are a visible and audible presence all week. They’re performing at the Schilling Amphitheater with their popular “History-on-a-Schtick!” vaudeville show. Or orient yourself to the fairgrounds with a cell phone walking tour around the grounds. Listen to fascinating stories of Minnesota State Fair history while you learn about the buildings and the stories those walls can tell. MHS also sponsors a booth in the Education Building where visitors can learn about the organization’s resources, the statewide network and outreach activities.

Wednesday, September 2, is library day at the Fair. The first treat of “Read&Ride Day” comes at the gate when public library cardholders will get discounted admission. From 9:00-5:00 Carousel Park will be abuzz with activities for every age, including yoyo tricks, magic, hypnotism, old-time and bluegrass music. For young readers and reader wanabes there are muscle and brain-building activities, picture books, a scavenger hunt, bookmarks and more. Visitors who show their library card will get a deck of “Get Carded: Make your next stop the library” playing cards.

Rain Taxi will join the September 2 reading bonanza with a full schedule of events, starting at 9:00 with the chance to write a short “good morning poem” using impromptu exercises with poet John Colburn. At 10:30 Moorhead teacher Kevin Carollo will craft cardboard animals, while poet Paula Cisewski will write an on-the-spot poem based on the requester’s Tarot cards.

Also from Rain Taxi, from 1:00-2:00 Minnesota hip-hop writer and performer Dessa will sign copies of her Rain Taxi chapbook, A Pound of Steam. From 2:00–3:30 poet-troubadour Brian Laidlaw will lead a drop-in songwriting workshop. And from 3:30-5:00 graphic novelist and comics professor Ursula Murray Husted will create a gigantic collaborative comic – fun for all ages.

** Public Library Day is funded by the Minnesota Legacy Fund.

P.S. Just as I polished off this post the latest news from Minitex popped up – featuring a tempting smorgasbord of top ten fun things to do at the Fair. https://news.minitex.umn.edu/news/library-news/top-10-things-do-state-fair-read-ride-day.  Click and learn!


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


Thoughts while perambulating the Great Minnesota Get-Together

Though Arianna Huffington would be appalled, I’m sure,  her words kept coming to mind during my hours of rapture at the State Fair.  As I trudged the streets, dodged the revelers, and ignored the pervasive essence of grease, it was her prose that set the mental pace.   Huffington’s gentle essay, “Hemingway, Thoreau, Jefferson and the Virtues of a Good Long Walk” posted on her August 29 blog, framed my thoughts at the Great Minnesota Get-Together..

Huffington writes that “a journey – one that can also be full of adventure and knowledge – doesn’t have to involve planes and cars and passports.  The benefits of a journey are always available simply by walking.”

In truth Huffington does not envision walking at the State Fair…Though hers is a more bucolic background with references to communing with nature, I kept thinking of the common experience I was enjoying.  I was alone, anonymous, in a sea of nature (albeit human), devoid of technology (since none that I possess could either cope or compete), in a reflective – and learning – mode.   The Fair, if visited in the guise of a disengaged observer, frees the spirit – no deadlines, no meetings, no business at all except to soak it all in.

And then there’s the walking.  A leisurely walk to Heritage Square is a healthy hike, if one pauses for an irresistible ice cream cone (caramel denali).  The trek to the horse barns or the art gallery or a real tour of International Square puts some wear on the sneakers.  Even the MPR booth on Nelson and Jackson is a healthy jaunt, especially if you start at the North end of the grounds.

The wonder is that the blocks slip by as the mind drifts, occasionally soars, trying to capture the essence of The Fair.  The infants in arms, physically challenged amputees negotiating the Grandstand steps, families in matching day-glo t-shirts designed to keep the brood in tow,  4-Hers shuffling their prize winning efforts,  high school bands marching proudly behind the Kemp’s cow, ethnic food vendors, groomers and trainers of domesticated animals, politicians, exhausted workers, homegrown royalty, artists, musicians, dancers, farmers, crafters, cooks and others who take well-earned pride in their efforts.  Each vignette is a story demanding the sort of reflection that germinates during a long walk to the next story.

In Huffington’s construct her models walked for various reasons:  for Jefferson, the purpose of walking was “to clear the mind of thoughts,” a theory that discourages mobile thinking about life, the universe and the essence of Minnesota.  Nietzsche, on the other hand, believed that “all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” while Hemingway saw walking as “a way of developing his best thoughts while mulling a problem.”   Walking at the Fair is not about thinking deep thoughts or even mulling a problem.  Still, it’s a sort of mindless thinking that has therapeutic implications.

Huffington concludes that “maybe the connection between our minds and our legs is that one of them is going to wander.  Sit still and our minds want to ramble – get up and start walking and our minds can slow down and be focused.  Perhaps forcing the brain to process a new environment allows it to engage more fully. “

Obviously, normal people go to the State Fair for entertainment, food, maybe even to snag an inflated giraffe, the thrill of the space needle or the chance to kick tires at the remnants of Machinery Hill.

My personal preference is to imagine the Fair as an annual opportunity to “move through the world not just physically, but spiritually.”   Huffington quotes Geoff Nicholson writing in The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science and Literature of Pedestrianism:  ‘Writing is one way of making the world our own, and…walking is another.”

That’s what I was thinking about as one of the hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans – and neighbors – mentally unleashed for hours at the Fair.  I’m glad no one asked what was on my mind.

Midtown Global Market Eateries at the Minnesota State Fair!

A smiling Manny Gonzalez holding a pineapple with the top cut off.

Manny Gonzalez at work

In case you need enticement to take in the Fair more than once, take the culinary route.  Though the diversity and abundance of ethnic delicacies are too much to survey – much less consume, here’s a taste sampler from the Midtown Global Market guaranteed to perk up the laziest taste bud.

In an interesting arrangement that allows all of the tenants to keep the home fires burning while they staff the Fair concessions, MGM restaurants will take turns at the International Bazaar

·         La Loma Tamales proffers their signature pork or vegetarian tamales (2/$5) through Monday, August 30th.

  • Jakeeno’s Trattoria serves their cheesy risotto on a stick ($6). They will also be bringing back their pear and gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts ($5) for $5 and their prosciutto wrapped asparagus (2/$5)   Jakeeno’s  will be at the MGM booth August 31 through September 3.
  • Manny’s Tortas covers the MGM booth September 4-7.  Manny’s blends a non-alcoholic pina colada served in a fresh pineapple ($7) to wash down their classic tortas ($5) each.  Manny’s tortas, Cuban, chicken or vegetarian sandwiches, are replete with cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion, avocado, jalapenos, refried beans and chipotle pepper mayo.

Three other Midtown Global Market businesses will be located in the International Bazaar throughout the twelve days of the Fair.

Outside the International Bazaar fairgoers won’t be at a loss for munchies.

Manny, who obviously just can’t get enough of the Great Minnesota Get Together, will be hawking his tortas in the Food Building throughout the Fair.

The Produce Exchange will feature their popular “Big As Yo’ Face” sweet and juicy peaches in the Agriculture Building, across from the entrance to the International Market.

Also in the Agriculture Building Salty Tart bakery will serve their award-winning macaroons.

Bon Appetit!

Kramarczuk’s at the MN State Fair

Kramarczuk’s is “back with a vengeance” in the words of Ordest Kramarczuk who recalls that his dad had a booth at the Great Minnesota Get Together back in 1963.  ThiA photo of Kramarczuk's building at the Fair s year the Kramarczuk family and crew are frantically feeding Twins fans at Target Field.  They’re also back at the Fair.  They’ve collaborated with long-time friends Stephanie and Mike Olson who operate the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. The Blue Moon is the exclusive vendor of Kramarczuk’s delectable brats, Polish and andouille sausage.   Ordest Kramarczuk is quick to note that all of Kramarczuk’s sausage, is made locally from farm-fresh pork.  Freshness is guaranteed because all of the sausage, made in limited quantities, is sold within just 48 hours.

The Blue Moon Dine-In Theater  has an extensive menu including what Steve Olson describes as an “awesome breakfast.”    It’s West of the Grandstand at the Southeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Chamber Street.  They’re open 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. every day of the Fair.

When they’re not vending their prize product at Target Field, Ordest and his son run the family business.  the iconic butcher shop/restaurant at 215 Hennepin (near University Avenue) in Northeast Minneapolis.

How to get to the Minnesota State Fair

As I write it’s just 24 hours and counting till the gates open at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair.  Be still my heart.  Though more about the Fair precedes and will follow this post the pressing issue of the day is getting there – especially getting there without squandering money better spent on bacon-on-stick, a kufta kabob or the Turbo Bungy.

Behold the bus:

  • Check out the State Fair Express service – nonstop to and from the Fair from Express parking lots 8:00 a.m. to Midnight. Closer P&R lots are free.  Far flung lots ($5) operate throughout the metro area and the burbs (some operated by MVTA and SouthWest Transit).  Park ($5)  Hop on the bus, hop off at the Fairgrounds gate and look with pity on hot and hapless families stuck in traffic.  Insider’s tip:  Go to the MTC State Fair site – enter your address and the omniscient system will show you the parking lots closest to you.
  • Regular bus routes are another option — Route 960, a State Fair special, runs frequently from Nicollet Mall. – Route 84 goes North-South on Snelling while Route 3 runs East-West on Como.

Bike or cycle:

  • There are three free secured bike parking areas on the fairgrounds – Check Gate #6 (Como and Snelling), Gate #2 (Hoyt and Snelling and Gate #15 near the West Dan Patch Transitway Gate.  Open 6 a.m. to Midnight.
  • Cyclists may also park, lock and ride the bus free from some of the Park & Ride sites.
  • Motorcyclists can pay $5 to park 6:00 a.m.-midnight for $5 at the secure lot near Gage #7 in Como.

No bicycles or motorcycles may be operated on the fairgrounds during the Fair.

Accessible parking:

A parking lot for people with disabilities and their companions, including wheelchair-accessible transportation to and from the Fair, is located at 1039 DeCourcy Circle, East of Snelling off Energy Park Drive. The bus stop for the wheelchair-accessible Park & Ride is at  Como Loop Gate #9.  Lots more information about accessibility to all of the State Fair on the state fair site, email accessibility@mnstatefair.org, call 651 288 4400 or TTY 651 642 2372.

When in doubt, check it out:

The Minnesota State Fair and Metro Transit websites are treasure troves that will answer just about any question a Fair-goer can pose.   Everything you ever wanted to know about the Great Minnesota Get-Together – schedules, times, fees, competitions, entertainment and food you’ve never imagined is  online or call 651 288 4400. A great resource is Metro Transit’s TripPlanner service – online or call 612 333 3733 (TTY 612 341 0140).