Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight.
For a couple weeks in August, Minnesotans (and beyond) of all sorts tie up their good walking shoes, loosen their belts and descend on the Twin Cities suburb of Falcon Heights for the annual gathering referred to proudly as The Great Minnesota Get-Together.
The State Fair’s tagline is a rare bit of bravado from a population that believes strongly in its above-averageness, but is too nice to brag about it. In this case Minnesotans have every right to boast: The fair is the largest of its kind in the country by average daily attendance, with a single-day attendance record of 270,426 people set in 2018.
The reasons why so many flock to fair each summer are numerous.
Ask any two Minnesotans and you’re likely to hear different draws to the 322-acre fairgrounds; but, somewhere on those lists will be the food. The fair has around 300 food concessions offering some 500 different items, according to the Minnesota State Fair website. The menu ranges from typical fried and “on-a-stick” foods to novelty concoctions and the much ballyhooed Sweet Martha’s Cookies, which serves up millions of fresh-baked chocolate chip morsels stacked impossibly high in plastic buckets.
Between mouthfuls, fairgoers take in a plethora of daily entertainment offerings. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ fish pond is a popular spot to relax, while the Mighty Midway has a range of thrilling rides and games.
The large crowds also attract top-shelf artists on multiple stages, including the Grandstand played by renowned musical acts in a variety of genres.
Elsewhere the fair stays true to its farming heritage with animal and agricultural exhibits. Several thousand cattle, horses, goats, rabbits, chickens and more are on display each day of the fair.
The 2019 Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 22-Sept. 2. For more information, visit www.mnstatefair.org.
If you go...
Name: Minnesota State Fair
Address: 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul
Phone: 651-288-4400; 800-514-3849
Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight Aug. 22-Sept. 2, closing at 10 p.m. Labor Day
Admission: Pre-fair tickets $12 through 9 p.m. Aug. 21; during the fair $15 adults, $13 seniors and ages 5-12; children 4 and under enter free