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These foot-long hot dog stands are all around the Minnesota State Fair. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

ST. PAUL — This week I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Minnesota State Fair, the largest state fair in the country by average daily attendance. Before the trip, I had never been to either Minnesota or a state fair; needless to say, I was excited.

The fair is essentially the size of a small town, with a network of streets that sprawl out from the massive Grandstand. It encompasses everything from carnival rides and a “Miracle of Birth Center,” where you can see animals give birth, to lots filled with tractors and cars and a fine-art exhibition. You can find a startling array of foods on a stick: hot dogs, deep-fried cheese, Belgian waffles, alligator. You can buy a jacuzzi and enlist in the Army, watch a bee-keeping demonstration or live butter-sculpture carving. The fair assaults your senses, swinging you back and froth between euphoria and exhaustion. At one point, I found myself sitting in a gazebo in 90-degree heat, digging into honey sunflower ice cream as a marching band rolled by playing songs from Les Misérables. It was the best kind of overwhelming.

I had come for Wednesday’s nighttime Grandstand show, the Walker Art Center’s second Internet Cat Video Festival. That was another experience in itself, one I’ll post about next week. But for three hours beforehand, I wandered around the fair trying to take in as much as possible. Here are some of my photos from the fair that’s aptly nicknamed the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.”

A marching band on parade

Princesses in the parade

The Horiculture building

Giant prize-winning pumpkins

A bee colony and prize-winning honey

Crop art, aka art made from seeds and corn kernels. Two favorites: Beast Jesus and Grumpy Cat.

Making crop art

Minnesota apples

On-site butter-sculpture carving

The Fine Arts Building

The exhibition inside contained 340 artworks selected out of 1,885 submissions.

Gun safes for sale

Mowers for sale

Inside the Luminarium, a blow-up structure filled with different-colored glowing rooms

Long day

The Grandstand, where the 2nd Internet Cat Video Festival was held

This french-fry seller was leading “YMCA.”

Horses

Sheep

Texas steak dinner on a stick

Announcing the winner of a dance contest

Free constitution and sunscreen

Late-night fireworks over the Grandstand

The Minnesota State Fair (1265 Snelling Ave N, St. Paul, Minnesota) continues through Labor Day, Monday, September 2. More information can be found here.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

8 replies on “The Minnesota State Fair in Pictures”

  1. One thing not captured by these pictures is just how many people are in attendance. On a calm day it looks like rush hour in Hong Kong.

    1. Yeah, I wanted to capture the crowds and constant streams of people, but I just couldn’t figure out how with my limited camera & photography skills.

  2. Thanks for this! Used to live there, used to go. The last time I was there, many moons ago, we witnessed the winning of a human woman beauty pageant. The reason I say it that way is that it was Miss Hog (animal, not motorcycle) and was held inside the area where hogs also were judged. The winner didn’t look as happy as she might have for another title. No, she was not fat and she was nice-looking. We did keep straight faces until we got outside. Ya just never know what you’ll see there.

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