Let’s see. It’s August 8. The MN State Fair starts on August 24. So, only 16 days until my Christmas! If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t been around here very long. I love the MN State Fair and I was thrilled to once again have an opportunity to join other bloggers at a MN State Fair blogger preview event the other day – The Great MN Blog Together. We had a chance to sample new food and then we had a chance to have a conversation with three of the folks in charge of entertainment at the Fair. I learned a lot from them! We’ll break this recap post into two parts. First up, because I know it’s everyone’s favorite, we’ll talk new food.
New 2017 State Fair Food
We had a chance to sample five of the new foods for 2017 and from what I’ve read on the State Fair website, this was only a snapshot of all the new things this year. I enjoyed just about everything we tried and we even had a little bonus sample at the end, but I’m getting ahead of myself!
(1) Sweet Corn Blueberry Eclair from Birchwood Cafe, sold at Farmer’s Union Coffee Shop. These folks were a delight to talk to, they are extremely passionate about food, especially food made with local, organic ingrediants. Everything in this eclair was made from MN grown produce. The inside is a creamy delightful corn mixture that adds just a touch of savory to an otherwise sweet treat. The blueberry on top is a nice touch. The presentation is first rate – the flower is even edible!
(2) Italian Bomba Sandwich from Mancini’s al Fresco. This is their version of a Cuban sandwich, so it has similar characteristics. The meat is flavorful (and even a little spicy) the bread is toasted just right. If you’re looking for less fried stuff and something a little more substantial, this would be the item to choose.
(3) Pizzarito from Green Mill. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a pizza burrito, even including some rice filling. I wasn’t sure I’d like this one, but I actually liked it a lot. Again though, this one is filling, so it would be one worth sharing or maybe grabbing if you’re looking for more of a meal and less of a snack.
(4) Brown Ale and Onion-Gouda Tipsy Pie from Sara’s Tipsy Pies. I have been in love with Sara’s Tipsy Pie’s since their debut a couple of years ago. The concept is pies all made with local MN beer or wine. They’ve added this savory delight to the mix this year and I already know that I’ll be stopping by to get one of these to share with Nate. (Pro-tip, there is a $2.00 off coupon for a tipsy pie in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book!) This might be my favorite new thing.
(5) Mobster’s Caviar at the Hideaway Speakeasy. The Hideaway is a new prohibition themed bar/restaurant that has opened up in the Grandstand. They’ll be serving gourmet treats like this crab dip, MN craft beer and wine. The theme just sounds so fun, I can’t wait to see what their space looks like!
And bonus – Mancini’s also brought us some freshly made Beer Gelato and I am pretty much ruined for any other ice cream now. It was made with Schell’s Hefeweizen and it is AMAZING. Although I will say you will have to like the flavor of beer, because you can definitely taste the beer in this. But that’s kind of why I loved it.
The MN State Fair website has a comprehensive list of all the new food and drink options that can be found here. It’s definitely worth a read before you go!
Entertainment at the Fair
After we were stuffed and satisfied, we had a chance to hear from a panel of three entertainment staff. They explained their process of finding talent for not just the Grandstand, but the countless free stages throughout the Fairgrounds.
Honestly if you can’t find a way to be entertained while you’re at the fair, you’re doing it wrong. There are shows constantly going on in various places. Each stage kind of has a theme to it. Leinie Lodge for example is kind of a mainstream, all ages stage. They try to get bigger acts to take the main nighttime slot, such as, two years ago they had Andy Grammer in the Tonight at the Lodge slot. They also aren’t afraid to book artists who are maybe on the way down, another great example would be Boyz II Men a couple of years ago.
The International Baazar stage hosts World Music and performers and includes anything from Chinese dancers to German polka. The West End Market stage hosts a lot of bluegrass and Americana style music and also one of the Fair’s hidden gems, The MN Historical Society’s MN History on a Stick skit. We caught the tail end of that show last year and plan to make sure we get to it from the beginning this year because it looks hysterical. There’s also the Family Fun Stage in Baldwin Park where the main goal is simply to find performers that will make kids laugh.
It might seem a little overwhelming when you start to look at all the entertainment options the Fair has to offer, but there truly is something for everyone. The Fair tries to make easy to plan your day, there is a great entertainment guide on their website under the Fun Finder. You can download the State Fair app that updates each day with the day’s events. Or you can do what we do, we still stop at the Information booth and grab an old fashioned schedule and map and figure out what’s going on that day with that! You can always ask one of the Information booth staff members where something is or what time something begins as well, from the parade, to the fiddle contest or the start of the Usher concert in the Grandstand. They’ll be able to help you!
The Entertainment staff sure has a big job to book all 900 (!!) shows that take place over the course of the Fair, so I appreciate that they took the time to chat with us and answer our questions. I heard they’re already booking 2018 if you can believe that, so they definitely are planners!
I’ll just leave with a few tips because I’m a seasoned pro (haha!). Buy your tickets ahead of time at Cub Foods. You’ll save a couple of dollars and then you don’t have to wait in line at the gate. Get yourself a Blue Ribbon Bargain book to save money on Fair food and shopping. If you do plan to see one a show on one of the many stages I just talked about, try to get there about a half hour early to get a seat. We used to find seats for Tonic Sol-Fa’s free show and one of us would run to get food/drinks and then we were all set for their performance – and it would definitely fill up, even with 5,000 seats available! Those guys are popular! Most of all, have fun! I’ll know I’ll be counting down the next couple of weeks for sure!