The Minnesota State Fair began its annual 12-day run this morning at 6:00 AM and runs through September 1. Even at that early hour, hundreds of fanatical fairgoers eager to be a part of the “Great Minnesota Get Together” had already lined up outside the gates. As expected, since that time the turnstiles haven’t stopped spinning.
Opening day is a good day to attend the Minnesota State Fair, as the crowds tend not to be as heavy as on weekends. Another good reason to hit the fair today is that it is Thrifty Thursday. The price of admission today is $8 for adults and $5 for ages 5 to 12. Regular admission is $11 usually and $9 for ages 5 to 12.
During the 12 Best Days of Summer, fairgoers can consume a wide variety of foods on a stick, view music concerts and entertainment, exhibits, and more. During 2007, the Minnesota State Fair was attended by nearly 1.7 million people. Each year it progressively grows as one of the most widely attended state fairs in the United States.
This year, the fair has a new building. The International Bazaar is a 14,000-square-foot facility on Judson Avenue, just south of the Agriculture and Horticulture building. It replaces an old wooden structure that was constructed in the early 1970s which was originally intended to be temporary. 35 years later in 2007, it was finally razed and the new International Bazaar was built. The International Bazaar features more seating, more entertainment space and more room for vendors.
Entertainment at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair includes more than 100 acts at eight free venues, with a lineup of stars that include Toby Keith, the Backstreet Boys, and the Black Crowes. The Great Minnesota Get-Together also features more than 450 food choices. Don’t forget the hundreds of agricultural, educational and commercial exhibits and attractions.
The Great Minnesota Get-Together has been in existence nearly as long as Minnesota has been a state. After four years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859 near what became downtown Minneapolis. That was just one year after Minnesota was granted statehood. Next year will see the celebration of the State Fair’s 150th anniversary! During the fair's early years, the site of the exposition rotated with stops in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Winona and Owatonna. The Minnesota State Fair finally found a permanent home at its present location after the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners donated a 210-acre poor farm to the State Agricultural Society, which governed the State Fair at the time.
After setting down its roots, the Minnesota State Fair began to grow. The fairgrounds now sprawls over 320 acres. Architecturally, it is home for many historically-significant structures including the Arts Center, Progress Center, the famous Grandstand, and Coliseum (formerly known as the Hippodrome).
In early fairs, agricultural exhibits and competitions played heavil, reflecting its original purpose of encouraging farming within the state. While agriculture is still the main focus of the Minnesota State Fair, the spectrum of activities has broadened to include large-scale entertainment features, technological and industrial exhibits, and education and government institutions.
Random Fact: Since it began, the Minnesota State Fair has been held every year without fail except for five occasions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.