A True Minnesotan Evening With 250,000 Of My Closest Friends

September 7, 2017

As a Wisconsin transplant, I have made it my mission to experience as many Minnesotan things as possible. Many people are quick to dismiss all of “flyover country” as one and the same, but I know better, having witnessed the vast difference in casual flannel apparel and enthusiasm for cheese. (Plus, Iowa, am I right?) When traveling, one of my favorite things is the opportunity to learn about and experience what makes a place unique and loved by the locals — so why not do that with my new home?

This summer marked the start of my third year as a Minnesota resident and I realized there were a few basic staples I had somehow bypassed my previous two years. One of those basic staples was the Minnesota State Fair. Yes, I know, shocking.

Having not been and having heard about all the can’t-miss experiences, I made it a goal this year to cross some of these very important things off my list. (Don’t worry, I made sure to bring along at least one friend who had attended the fair before. I didn’t want to be a complete noob.)

We started with corndogs and beer and eventually found our way to Sweet Martha’s Cookies — the holy land of the Minnesota State Fair. We literally got in line while the sun was out, and got our cookies after nightfall. It was a 45-minute wait, but boy was it worth it. Of course, we also made sure to spend some time on rides, visiting the animal pavilions and people-watching. We finished with a round-trip sky ride at 10 p.m. — the only thing I wished we had done sooner in the day to get a lay of the land.

To get some true native-Minnesotan perspective, I asked some coworkers what they have on their must-have lists when they attend. Here were some of the top answers:

Foods: Sweet Martha’s Cookies, deep fried pickles, deep fried Snickers, Pronto Pup, cheese curds, a Gizmo, and beer.

Experiences: People-watching, the “Miracle of Life” animal tent, and the hodge-podge of free live music at Leinie’s Lodge.

I also got some great hot takes I’d be remiss not to share:

I was always tapped into the supposedly latest and greatest fair foods. But year after year, the crazy new gimmick-on-a-stick never lives up to the Gizmo. If you haven’t tried it, it’s pretty simple: ground beef and Italian sausage in a bun, covered in a red sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. It’s often forgotten in all the buzz about new foods, but as Andrew Zimmern once put it: The Gizmo is “The Perfect State Fair Food.” — Jake

I’ll share some advice – with such large crowds, I recommend a smaller group to stay nimble. And if you’re not taking advantage of the free park and rides, you’re doing it wrong. — Cydney

All I have to say is that every year I say I’m not going to go to the state fair, and every year I go to the state fair. And it is always terrible. — Maggie