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'Awesome' Minnesota State Fair opens with more security

U.S. Sen. Al Franken greets Peter, 4, and Kit, 1, just after the Minnesota State Fair opened Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. They are the children of Sean and Jamie Magel of Eagan. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)1 / 4
Darlene and the Boys provide the music for a bit of old-fashioned dancing Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, as the Minnesota State Fair opens for the season. The action was happening at the Department of Natural Resources stage. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)2 / 4
Ryan Hinkeldey of Windom shows a 2-year-old Holsein at on the Minnesota State Fair's opening day, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)3 / 4
Temperatures in the low 70s and mostly sunny skies made for perfect weather and a large crowd as the Minnesota State Fair opened its 12-day run Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)4 / 4

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — People in line complained too few shuttle buses were scheduled. A political party chairman complained about members of another party. Lines built quickly, and well before lunch, at the most popular food concessions.

And then there was Ryan Hinkeldey.

"It's awesome," the Windom 4-H member said as he led his 2-year-old Holstein cow back to the barn.

Yep, the 2016 version of the Minnesota State Fair opened Thursday, and with near perfect weather as temperatures sat in the low 70s under mostly sunny skies, the fairgrounds was packed more than most opening days.

The fair runs through Labor Day under tighter security than normal.

Lines of people getting into the fair were not slowed much on opening day as security guards glanced in bags being carried onto the grounds. Fair officials launched the checks after several recent incidents, including a police-involved shooting near the fairgrounds earlier this year.

Besides the bag checks, there are changes to security staffing, vehicle access, traffic management and video security.

State Republican Chairman Keith Downey said fair officials have "beefed up" security around his party's booth after presidential candidate Donald Trump supporters were harassed by protesters in Minneapolis a week ago.

Downey would not say what was changed with security, but said a few hours after the fair opened that he is confident volunteers in his party's booth will be safe if protesters try to disrupt their work.

But such things were not on the minds of many at the fair. They were enjoying things on a stick, watching presentations, listening to music and, as Hinkeldey did, showing animals.

The 17-year-old State Fair veteran said he liked to show cattle so he can renew friendships with people year after year.

He also likes to talk to city folks who visit the barn, he said. "I like to show them that living on a farm is not dirty all the time."

Those from cities, he said, do not understand about farming, so he enjoys letting them in on the story of his family dairy farm.

Among those at the fair early were Minnesota's two U.S. senators. And both had lines of people waiting to greet them.

"It's sort of a tradition," Sen. Al Franken said. "I don't have to travel around the state, they come to me."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said going to the fair to the fair "is the best way to hear what's on people's minds."

Klobuchar's booth is soliciting Minnesotans' feelings about soaring prescription drug prices, a topic she has been discussing lately. Four of the 10 most-used drugs have risen in price substantially in the last year, she said, and the fair is a way that she and her staff can get people's stories on the issue.

Otherwise, politicians are in shorter supply than in most election-year fairs. Minnesota voters will decide no statewide partisan races this fall, which means that political parties have booths but not candidates.

While candidates may be in short supply, new foods (especially those bad for you) never are scarce. Here are some new ones this year:

-- Candied bacon doughnut sliders, sliced glazed doughnut holes with thick candied bacon and a chocolate-red wine ganache.

-- Spam sushi, grilled Spam, sushi rice, fried egg and wasabi rolled in nori (dried seaweed).

-- Minnesota corn dog, custom ground sausage on-a-stick made with blueberries, apples, wild rice, maple syrup and cayenne dipped in a homemade corn dog batter and deep-fried.

-- Rustic beef pastry, Moroccan-spiced and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust.

-- Macaroni and cheese curds.

-- Iron Range meat and potatoes, seasoned beef with a layer of cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes, then baked and drizzled with a wild rice gravy.

-- The Elvis, banana ice cream infused with creamy peanut butter served in a cup or waffle cone.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this story.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.