Alright, first things first – let's talk about food at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Every year, I'm all ears to find out what new foods are making waves. This fair season, it's all about pickles. Can you believe there's pickle lemonade and mango pickles? Count us in! We're also looking forward to trying pickle fries, the Galabao that's probably sent from a higher culinary dimension by Hmong Union Kitchen, hot honey cheese sticks complete with crunchy honeycomb crunch from The Blue Barn, and the pièce de résistance – MinneCookieDough Pie from Minneapple Pie. My taste buds are already doing the happy dance.
I did some top-secret intel work to uncover the Foundry Folk's must-have fair staples. Kurt and Kelsey think Turkey To-Go is the most underrated state fair food. Kurt's even got his parking game structured to secure his turkey fix not only once, but twice! I mean, who cares about parking hassles when you've got perfectly-cooked turkey leg on the horizon? As for me, I think it’s the corn. The true test of a state fair food is if you'll go out of your way for it and me, I go just for the corn. The corn line is like a mini party of its own, and there's something about biting into a fresh cob with a bunch of strangers that feels like an ideal state fair moment. Year after year, this delicious corn gets our household’s perfect rating of 10/10 Fairchilds.
As far as the classic fair food goes, us Foundry Folk have have two resounding favorites: cheese curds and fried pickles. Otherwise, we felt some of the classics might not be all they're hyped up to be. Sweet Martha's? It's good, but not wait-in-line good. Although, if you're feeling generous with those cookies, we won't say no! As for the Corndog vs. Pronto Pup showdown. Here's the shocker – most of us would rather skip them altogether, but if we had to choose, we're a slightly-more-into-corndogs bunch.
Now, the million-dollar question: when's the best time to hit up this fair extravaganza? Weekdays, my friends! Especially early in the game. First days mean special events galore, less stickiness all around, and zero worries about missing out on your dream treats. Oh, and let's not forget the early mornings – they're the unsung heroes. Fewer crowds, cooler weather, stellar breakfast and lunch options, and it's basically a VIP pass to explore the fair buildings. Time it right and you’ll never wait in line to see the butter sculptures or pet a baby pig.
Okay, but what about getting to the fair? Claudio's got the golden rule: "Driving is for masochists." Save yourself the trouble and hop on a shuttle or bike your way in. The U of M bike and bus paths have got your back – they lead you straight to the fairgrounds on a private road.
Onto our game plan: some of us are all about strategizing our fair trips around the good stuff. Me? Lumberjack and dog-jumping shows. Kelsey? She's got a thing for greyhounds and glass-blowing demos. Jason and Claudio live for the special shows and competitions. And Steve's all about the flower exhibits and butterfly house.
We've all got a soft spot for exhibitions and state bests – if you ask us, these are really the heart of the fair. The seed art and prize vegetables in the agriculture/horticulture building are best enjoyed with an apple cider freezer pop from the orchard stand in hand – a genius cooldown tactic. And really, it's always a great time to get inspired Eco Experience, 4H building, and Fine Arts Center or meet animals in one of the live stock buildings.
We recommend not skipping out on all the pageantry and public judgment in the early days at the Compeer Arena or local flavor of the State Fair side stages. Whether you’re more into stock dog sheep herding, an amateur talent contest, an art detective hunts for kids, llama costume contests, or animal obstacle courses, we recommend checking the schedule early to see which shows you could catch. And the most fun of all? Travis insists that you better not leave without taking the plunge down the big slide. It might be the only slide you tackle all year as a grown-up, and it's bound to plaster a goofy grin on your face.
Music fans, this part's for you. State Fair concerts seemed to stand out as one of our favorite things about the fair. Travis loved stumbling upon an epic Trampled by Turtles show, and I'll never forget the time my friend’s band opened for Gnarls Barkley and I landed a front-row spot to watch Danger Mouse on the piano. One of Claudio’s favorite memories was catching an all-woman band cover Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” This year, Claudio is looking forward to The Current's Music on a Stick featuring Bob Mould and Dillinger Four, and some of us will be singing our hearts out at the Brandi Carlile, The Chicks, and Boys II Men shows. But hey, fair fact: paid seats aren't the only game in town. Peek at performances from the rides or simply chill outside while the tunes float your way. One of Jason's favorite fair memories is busting moves outside during an Usher gig, and on clear nights, I can hear the Grandstand concerts from my balcony. One of my favorite fair memories was actually just dancing to the Beach Boys' show from my living room.
Oh, and as much as the mornings are special, don't bail out early. The nights? Pure magic. Picture this: you just took a ride on the Big Wheel to look out over all of the twinkling fair and city lights and you're now enjoying a cool drink on a warm summer night. The fireworks are going off, a band nearby is playing to a joyous crowd, laughter is ringing through the air, and you're headed to get a new flavor of pie you’ve never had but everyone is raving about. Around here, these are the kind of nights that make the long winters worth it.