Sunday, May 12, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Photo: Spaghetti Eddie's super sticks (pepperoni and cheese battered and fried; photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair)
Food on a stick: it's the fair's ultimate cliche. The way people talk about it, you'd think that you can't even buy a cup of coffee without the cup somehow perilously perched on the end of skewer. But, stereotype of not, we all know that food on a stick IS the ultimate fair food. And the numbers are now there to prove it. In 2012, the Minnesota State Fair Foundation reported that of 500 food types available at the fair, an amazing 70 of them came served on a stick!
And that, dear hungry reader, brings us to our 2013 Fair Food Challenge. How many foods on a stick can YOU eat during the 2013 Minnesota State Fair? Are you the type to stick to the tried-and-true classics, or will you be chasing the newest exotic food-on-a-stick offerings? I can't promise a prize, but let me know how many different types of food-on-a-stick you manage this fair season (no need to do all 70 in one day!) and you can at least get some public bragging rights.
And yes, I know it's only April -- I'm issuing this challenge now so that you have time to plan your dining schedules and stretch out those stomach muscles. Just don't blame me if you find that your training sessions also lead to the need to stretch out your waistbands.
See you at the fair!
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Browsing the meat competition entrants at the Minnesota State Fair will inevitably leave you with the impression that there is literally a sausage or piece of processed meat out there for anyone. (Well, perhaps the vegetarians among us will have to broaden our search parameter beyond the meat refrigerators.) These 2011 offerings, for example, entered by Steve’s Meat Market of Ellendale, Minnesota, included pepper jack sticks, cranberry sticks, apple cinnamon breakfast sausages, garlic ring bologna, and hickory smoked apple cinnamon bacon, among other options.
Steve’s Smokey Acres, for the uninitiated, is run by the mother-and daughter team of Rachel Lee and Donnavon Eaker (the business gets its name from the late Steve Eker) and they have racked up an impressive array of industry prizes, including the Minnesota Association Processors’ top award in the specialty snack stick division for their cranberry sticks.
If you want some specialty snack sticks of your own, the market sells directly to the public. They are located approximately 84 miles south of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, in the heart of tiny Ellendale, Minnesota (about 15 minutes south of Owatonna and 15 minutes north of Albert Lea). While you’re there make sure to congratulate them on their 40th anniversary!
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Well, to be fair, I don’t know if this is truly a “corny” romantic gesture. My ability to identify seeds is a bit lacking, but I don’t think is a single corn kernel on this piece of crop art. But corny or not, what loving couple couldn’t appreciate commemorating their big day in the time-tested medium of Minnesota seeds and beans? I don’t know the back story to this entrant in the 2011 Minnesota State Fair crop art competition, but I’m assuming that’s Todd holding his offering to his bride, Hannah. My best guess? A memorable and personalized wedding gift to the couple from a friend or family member. Given that the wedding date was August 20, I can’t imagine that either Todd or Hannah had the time to finish painstakingly gluing every lentil or piece of wild rice and arranging delivery to the Fair between dress fittings, floral runs, and the rehearsal dinner. I like to think that, wherever they live now, this piece of personalized art hangs in a place of honor, bringing back memories to their August 2011 wedding.
I don’t think I know anyone getting married in August 2013, but if anything, er, crops up, I might be doing some mad gluing myself come this summer. And to Hannah and Todd, I hope you can celebrate your second anniversary in style at the Minnesota State Fair in 2013. Congratulations!
Monday, March 25, 2013
Not all visitors to the Minnesota State Fair can sustain themselves through a busy day of cows, thrill rides, free ruler giveaways, and funny cat videos by scarfing down fried food on a stick. Now granted, some of the younger fair-goers -- like my son, when he was a baby -- might be perfectly fine to embrace new foods like mini donuts (or even the more healthy baby-friendly foods, like hummus), but man -- and infant boys and girls -- cannot live on fried food alone. And for those of you with very young babies who don't even have the fun of finger foods, you may be wondering about the logistics of how to handle feeding of the baby variety while at the fair.
First, of all, breastfeeding mothers can feed their babies wherever they feel like. You want to feed the baby while on the sky ride, you go right ahead. But if you're looking for a quieter environment, somewhere a bit calmer and out of the hustle and bustle, or perhaps you're pumping and you don't relish the idea of locking yourself into a bathroom stall somewhere, the good folks at the Minnesota State Fair have you, er, covered. They offer formal "breastfeeding facilities" at the Care and Assistance Center, located on Dan Patch across from Heritage Square. Private rooms are available on a first-come, first-served basis. I've never used this facility so can't vouch for how well it works, but it's nice to know that it's there.
In years past the radio station 107.1 has also hosted a Lactation Station, which is an enclosed tent outfitted with rocking chairs, water, and some outlets for those who want to pump.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I love the Minnesota State Fair for a lot of reasons. If I had to pick one TOP reason, though, it would be easy: because it’s weird. Think about it. The Fair has everything! Where else can you watch butter sculpting, drink frozen wine slushy samples (hey, it was worth a try), ogle pumpkins as big as your car, buy wool on a stick, and watch pigs being born, all in the same day? Or, if you’re really fast, even in the same hour? There is ALWAYS something new and unique around the corner or up the street at the fair, and much of it is, well, kind of strange. Or in many cases, perhaps not strange by itself, but mixed in with everything else it becomes part of a great, random, assortment of stuff that would never coexist in any other setting, which of course is part of the appeal.
And that leads me to this place: the DNR’s indoor rifle range. Why spend your money at the Midway booths when you can do some shooting courtesy of the state of Minnesota? No, you won’t win a huge purple stuffed animal, but hey, assuming you’re over the age of six, what are you going to do with that giant bear, anyway? Now maybe a shooting range in itself isn’t weird, but it’s both odd and totally fitting that this one is tucked away inside the DNR building. Maybe it's just me, but I was surprised when I learned this place was here. I didn’t have the patience to stand in line to try it out for myself, but apparently this one lets you pretend to shoot (it’s laser – sorry, no, the DNR isn’t going to really let you shoot real firearms in their large, but not THAT large, historic building) at moving targets before moving on to shooting pretend ducks or quail.
And then you get to virtually pluck and roast the birds for your virtual lunch. Just kidding. If all that hunting has made you hungry, there are plenty of concession stands ready to sell you some turkey or chicken on a stick (I don’t believe pheasants, quail, or duck are available, although the 2013 new foods have not yet been announced…).
As far as the real guns go, please leave yours at home. The Minnesota State Fair bans guns on the premises during the duration of the fair.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Well, no real "behind the brick" story for this one. I just liked it. Luckily for the noses of State Fair attendees, I doubt that this poet goes hungry while at the fair, and if he (she?) does, there are certainly more appetizing things to be found than your schnoz.
If you have words that need to be said, get your own Minnesota State Fair brick through the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.