The Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, built in 1909, is perhaps THE most iconic building at the Minnesota State Fair. It looms over the Fairgrounds, its large lettering reminding everyone (as if we could forget!) that yes, we are indeed at the STATE FAIR. During fair-time its innards are filled with hawkers and purveyors of all sorts of wonder gadgets, as well as old standbys like Jacuzzi tubs, spectacles, cleaning supplies, and nearly anything and everything else you could potentially wish to buy. At night, performers take to the stage, and live music floats across the Fairgrounds. In short, the Grandstand is an essential part of the Minnesota State Fair experience, and a place that holds a great deal of significance to Minnesotans of all ages and backgrounds, and from all parts of the state.
It is, therefore, unfortunate that the grand entrance to such a grand building (a GRANDstand, no less!) is so... well, ungrand. You've all seen it: a long, sloping ramp that leads from down by the Star Tribune building up and over the crowds into the Grandstand itself. The existing ramp was built as a WPA project in 1937, and replaced an earlier earthen ramp. It's beautiful, certainly, but a little down on its luck. The chain wire fencing, in particular, detracts from the beauty and grandeur of the structure, while the lighting is harsh. Luckily, help is on its way. The Grandstand is one of twenty-five Twin Cities historic sites in the running for some of the $1 million in funding offered through the Partners in Preservation program. Fair officials hope to bring some grand back to our Grandstand, and to fulfill its original promise. The $185,000 project would include:
- the installation of 70 recessed groove lights;
- upgrades to the lighting on the ramp's ten towers;
- electrical upgrades; and
- (perhaps best of all!) replacing the ugly and historically inaccurate chain link safety fence with something more appropriate.
Take a minute and imagine a new scenario. It's a balmy evening in late August. The smell of chocolate chip cookies mingles with grease and who knows what else waft about as thousands of fair-goers stroll by the Grandstand. You can hear shouts of mingled terror and excitement coming from the Midway. Hand-in-hand with your significant other, you stop at the base of the ramp, gaze up to the Grandstand itself in the distance, and catch your breath at the perfection of the scene. The new recessed lighting creates the perfect mood lighting, while the new tower lights highlight the sheer aesthetic attraction of the ramp and its many subtle architectural flourishes. Funny, you never fully realized its true beauty when all that chain fencing was there to distract you. Looking forward to the evening show, you join the throngs of fellow fair-goers as you wander up the ramp, basking in the glow emanating from the new lighting, as well, it seems, from the crowds of happy people who are coming together here, on this ramp, to join in a night of community, walking in the steps of generations of Minnesotans who came before them, as together you make your way into what you can now truly call a Grandstand, a Grandstand befitting that most Minnesotan icon of all: the Minnesota State Fair.
Want to help? Vote for the Grandstand on the Partners in Preservation Facebook page. Winners will be announced on October 13, so get your votes in now. You can vote daily, and to sweeten the deal all voters can enter to win a set of four round-trip Delta tickets. You can also visit the Grandstand this Saturday, October 8, for an open house (10 to 3); consider it a pep rally of sorts on behalf of the ramp project.
And, of course, you don't have to wait for Partners in Preservation to dole out the money. The Minnesota State Fair Foundation is working tirelessly to raise money for all sorts of important Fair projects, and will happily accept your tax-deductible donation today.