Thursday, July 19, 2012


How Does Your Fair Compare?

Every summer at the Minnesota State Fair, lucky Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants get their busts carved out of butter. The Minnesota State Fair wins everything. A month ahead of opening day, Saveur is amped to agree. What would you deep fry on a stick?

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I had never been to a state fair until I went to the Iowa State Fair, which is awesome. A couple of friends of mine from Minnesota are coming down to the Iowa State Fair this summer to compare, and I hope to make the same trip to Minnesota next summer!


@phipsi I firmly believe the Iowa State Fair is the best State Fair.


@WhiskeySour It IS the only one with a musical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Fair_%28musical%29


@highjump @WhiskeySour Agreed! Agreed!


@phipsi So sorry, but being in Iowa is automatic disqualification for best anything. Minnesota smack talk!


The cows in question produce more than enough milk to feed a calf. Some dairies do feed pasturized milk from cows to calves, others use milk replacer, but all cows and calves are well care for.@n


As a Minnesotan, the answer is everything. Deep fry everything on a stick. Can you put a stick on a stick? If so, deep fry that. Perfect.

The Lady of Shalott

I was at a State Fair one time and they actually had a man in a box doing the butter carving and you could WATCH, which was extremely cool! They use a lot of ordinary wood-carving tools and stuff but it's just impossibly cool to watch someone create a cow or a lady or whatever out of a gigantic block of butter BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES.

Also, as big of a fan as I am of deep fried stuff, I have to speak out against deep-fried Oreos. They just...weren't appealing, somehow! I gave them the old college try but not for me.


@The Lady of Shalott Amen sista. At my state fair they also douse them in this "icing" which is like 3 parts confectioner's sugar to 1 part corn syrup. WHYYYYY

I head straight towards the vendor that sells only deep-fried vegetables and get myself a variety basket.

Genghis Khat

@phipsi My sister rode rodeo and the only part that made it bearable were the fried vegetables.


Oh my god, this is my favorite part of the MN State Fair. I seriously threatened my fiancee that we were getting wedding butter heads and tried to contact the lady but she is VERY BUSY.

This is bumming me out--I usually fly home every year for the State Fair. Yes, I really love it that much.


@parallel-lines i also usually fly home for the MN state fair! my first concert was bonnie rait at the state fair. many of my best memories took place at the state fair. as i type this, i'm starting to wonder if i should get a state fair themed tattoo.


But it's always the same! My family used to make a big deal of going every year in a big group, but I hardly ever go now.

But on the other hand - Martha's Cookies, Giant Slide (Must go. Tradition.), kolachkies, and baby animals.


@NeverOddOrEven And llamas in costumes!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo1QnEGNG8c


@parallel-lines one of my students this year is a Princess Kay contestant. The finals are at my college campus this year!


Wisconsin has the best state fair. Hands down. I don't even know where to begin on why it's so awesome, but mostly it's because Wisconsin is THE BEST.


@emilies ALL the cheeses? I've never been to WI's state fair, preferring instead Minnesota's state fair. But ever since the Walker fuckery the feelings of rivalry bred into me from childhood have mellowed.

Dr. Iris Puffybush

@emilies I'm from WI, but live in MN. Everything in WI is WAY better than MN....except the Fair. It pains me so much to say that, but just based on the grounds and location alone MN wins. The WI state fair grounds are just a big field of concrete, and MN has grass and trees and is in a much nicer place than West Allis. It's been a long time since I've been to the WI state fair though, so I really do need to go again to 100% confirm my beliefs on this.


You know damn well that the only answer to that question is "ALL the things!"


They didn't even mention Sweet Martha's Cookies! The best of the best MN State Fair food.


I don't actually know if I've ever been to the California state fair, or just to our local county fair. Also our town has an Asparagus Festival, which is good enough for me. (And a good sight better than the Dried Bean Festival of the place I was born.)


@frigwiggin The California State Fair is kind of overwhelming, plus you have to go to Sacramento, blech. I grew up going to the Nevada County Fair (in California, yes) and still fondly think of it as the best. Just good ole down home folks and pasties, not for your nipples but rather the miner food.


My boyfriend and I are already plotting what we are going to eat this August at the Great Minnesota Get Together. You guys, this is really hard work. You HAVE to get the french fries (mentioned in the article) because they are french fry elevated to art form. You HAVE to get cheese curds, but only from the right stand. And then there is only so much room for deciding what new foods to try...Last year we waited in line for chicken fried steak on a stick and it was seriously disappointing.

(I am a bad Minnesotan, I don't really like Sweet Martha's cookies, or the bottomless milk stand)


@MissMushkila The deep fried pickles are so great. You can never really go wrong with corn on the cob. For several years I have enjoyed the gator sausage. I always get one glass of milk for tradition's sake but then mostly drink water throughout the day for safety.


@MissMushkila The bottomless milk makes my stomach churn. You need a lot of intestinal fortitude to get that and the deep fried Snickers bar on a stick.


@MissMushkila You HAVE to get mini donuts! You HAVE to get the beergerita! and I love a good lefse burrito with some walleye and wild rice and a smidge of lingonberry.

I'm also not a fan of Sweet Martha's or the milk stand--there's more important things to eat. Skip the alligator on a stick--who goes to MN to eat alligator?! - and sausage and meatballs on a stick, as well as the casserole on a stick with cream of mushroom dipping sauce.


@parallel-lines I respect your right as an American to eat what you wish at the state fair, but I grew up in rural MN and until I went to college the state fair was the widest variety of food I was ever exposed to. Who goes to MN to eat alligator? People who've spent their whole lives in parts of MN where you can't get anything BUT lefse, walleye, and wild rice.


@highjump I know, I know...but it's cooked to death and tastes like a rubber tire. There's just so much food there that's a million times better.

And I grew up in rural MN as well so I'm not some sort of highfallutin' Yankee sneering down my monocle at the little people.


@parallel-lines I have enjoyed the alligator sausage, I've never gotten the kabobs or whatever because they do look overcooked. There are So. Many. Things. to eat it is wonderful! (I love my state! Why did I move to DC?!) Have you had the wine ice cream?

I am from west central MN and my high school was in the CLC conference - maybe we are secret former neighbors?!


@highjump Hmm...I'm from south central, about an hour south of Minneapolis--a town known for turkey processing and building a blind school next to a prison. I hope yours is better than that!

Dr. Iris Puffybush

@MissMushkila I don't really like Sweet Martha's Cookies either, but I'm not a native Minnesotan, so I don't feel bad.
I always take a day off of work and go the first Monday. I start my day with a Scotch Egg on a stick and work my way through other foods. Some of my favorites are the frozen Mediterranean lemonade at Holy Land, the frozen apple cider in the Ag Hort building (best deal at the fair), sweet corn fritters, THE TURKEY SANDWICH!!! (I know you can get them year round now, but I never go downtown), pork chop on a stick (only from the stand by the haunted house), and if I really want to get crazy, the Gizmo sandwich. I don't generally do cheese curds, because they take up too much valuable space I could use for other food, and I'm from WI and am a curd snob. The new food this year I am most looking forward to is the red velvet funnel cake. I'm not super impressed by the list of new foods this year though. Lamb Testicles? Seriously?


@highjump I had the wine ice cream last year and it was AMAZING.

This is brilliant. I am taking notes. Have you guys seen the list of new things for this summer?

40 New Foods 2012


@Dr. Iris Puffybush Last year I got the Scotch Egg and Mediterranean lemonade, but I am a snob about mint lemonade. I usually share the fries and cheese curds with a sizable group. I have to go when it isn't so damn hot though, because I lose my appetite if it's over 90 degrees outside.

As for the lamb testicles - I've eaten lamb intestines and lamb brain. I feel like I've done all of the adventurous lamb eating necessary in this lifetime.

I'm looking forward to the mashed sweet potatoes on a stick (but I would rather if they were sprinkled in cayenne rather than powdered sugar)

Carrie Ann

@MissMushkila I'm not a Sweet Martha's fan either. The cookies aren't that good flavor-wise (too sweet), and the texture is awful the longer they sit. They get tough.

My Fair must-haves: Ice cream from the Dairy Building, Cider Freeze at Ag/Hort, 1 cup of 2% Milk from the Bottomless Milk place (I always keep the cup just in case, but I never end up going back), and Cheese Curds from the Food Building stand. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake.


I have been to the Minnesota State Fair, and must say it is a veritable wonderland. There's even a horse show! But all we saw was Saddlebreds, poor things.


@noReally And the Miracle of Birth barn! That looping feed of a calf being born is pretty mesmerizing.


@Amphora Last year I took my Staten Island born-and-raised boyfriend to the MOB barn to show him baby farm animals since he'd never really seen them and while we were watching some cute baby pigs the mother sat on one and crushed it to death against an electric fence. I had to rush him out of there, I thought he was going to cry. The Miracle of Birth...and sometimes death.


Topsfield Fairkicks fair ass! Duck races, a bunny house, beekeeping, and more!


Little sister of one of my besties from high school is among the class of new butterheads and in the running for Princess Kay! She is a wonderful advocate for dairy and their farm is one of the most picturesque Americana-soaked places I have ever been. Good luck Meg! http://mobile.echopress.com/page/article/id/96262


Yayyyy, this is my fair, and it is truly the greatest. I know a girl who was carved in butter! She didn't win Princess Kay though, she was a runner up. Also, my first concert was Christina Aguilera at the fair. And I think my favorite foods are the french fries, cheese curds, Sweet Martha's, and anything from the bbq place by the dairy barn.


@Inconceivable! Yes I also had a friend from college who was a local Dairy Princess (county? district? who knows) and she did not win the whole shebang, but indeed her head was carved out of butter at the fair. Awesome!


The Minnesota State Fair is my most favorite thing ever! Did you know that there is a llama costume contest where 4H kids dress up their llamas in costumes and they walk them around the show ring in corresponding costumes? And! There are free concerts going on all day, everyday! AND! The strawberry shakes at the dairy barn are SO GOOD. Again, it's my most favorite thing ever. Seriously, I live for this shit.


@lizzybeast HUGE HUGS, me too! I love a good logrolling contest and the 4-H kids made someone seriously hilarious stuff. The last time I went I literally ate myself into the fetal position, it was amazing.

Does Axl have a jack?

I had never been to a state fair until I moved to Ohio, where it is a Big Deal. They have deep-fried mashed potato balls, enough said.


@Does Axl have a jack? the ohio state fair is awesome! and huuuuuuge! the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school i stayed there for 3 weeks as part of the all ohio state fair youth chorus. we sang 10 shows a day in the august sun and there were like 400 of us and by the end of each show at least 10% of the kids had fainted. grownups just pulled them out the back of the risers and the rest of us kept going.

that summer was all about making out and eating pie.


the MN state fair also has an ENTIRE BARN FULL of baby animals!



Any MN going to the fair this year can see me on Saturday Sept 1st from 1-5pm at the Pro-choice Resources table.
'Pinup? We can drag each other around to our favorite stuff!


@NeverOddOrEven i fully support a state fair 'pinup! i am not 100% sure that i'll be home for it, but it really needs to happen because it's one of the best ideas i've ever heard.


@NeverOddOrEven I will totally come and say hello, or come to a state fair pin-up!


You can also see Al Franken freehand draw a map of the US at the MN state fair! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0-FYyuvrRk


@highjump I saw this in person and he is the BEST! He stayed afterwards and chatted with his constituents, even the irate, jerky folks. Serious class act.


Mmm fried things. My most recent favorite was the breakfast corn dog I had a few weeks ago. Sausage link inside, pancake batter outside. It goes without saying, but it was scrumptious.



Pigs-in-a-blanket 4evah!!


@atipofthehat Do they make pigs-in-a-blanket on sticks? Because that would be amazing.


@permanentbitchface Haha what a dumb question. OF COURSE they do.


I miss the MN State Fair so much! When I was a kid we would go every year. At least one of my siblings and I would have art in the art building, and my mom would make us go to all the livestock buildings before we could go on rides, and we'd eat so much fried food and visit the MPR booth (Judson and Nelson!). This is the fourth year I won't be able to go because I have to be at school in another state by the time it starts.

Do other states get as territorial about their state fairs as MN does? I mean, personally I feel like I get territorial about most things about Minnesota, even the ones I don't necessarily enjoy (the Mall of freaking America! Mosquitoes like you've never seen!). But I feel like the state fair is a point of pride for nearly every Minnesotan. Because it really is, objectively, the BEST.


@isitisabel It really is the best. Based on my limited experience with other state fairs (Wisconsin, Georgia, and I think Illinois though I might be misremembering), I don't think other states are quite as proud of theirs. Nor should they be!


@Canard Iowa's is great!! But I would love to go to Minnesota's!


@isitisabel I think part of it is that in MN it reached a point of social inevitability? (almost) Everyone goes. I have never once not run into people I know there. Our public schools wait to start until it's finished. News stations televise it.

But also, I've been told that MN people just generally tend to be weirdly overenthusiastic regarding our home state.


@MissMushkila I've really come to realize the truth of your last point since I've left MN. Even at my least enthusiastic about my home state, I am exponentially more so than any of my friends from other states. And whenever I meet another Minnesotan it's like an instant connection.


I'm from Texas, this shit would melt.


@whereismyrobot AHEM the Texas State Fair has a butter sculpture too. Please. It's always done to fit the theme of the fair, and inside a refrigerated case.


Kentucky state fair anyone? Pig racing! Ugly lamp contest!

Is It a Hat?

Since I'm from Washington state, I'm inclined to say that the Puyallup Fair is the best ever. Scones! Baby farm animals! Terrifying/sketchy rides! However, I live just blocks from the fairgrounds and traffic during those two weeks in September are like hell on earth.

Is It a Hat?

@Is It a Hat? Also the fairgrounds where the site of a Japanese internment camp during WWII, and according to multiple ghost websites, "Some nights the large Ferris wheel starts going and one of the seats start to rock and screaming is heard." D:


I love butter. I fancy myself a bit of a butter connoisseur, or a butter snob at least. Does anyone else feel as passionately about butterfat as I do?

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@insouciantlover basically butter is delicious but I also sort of feel like this.

Dr. Iris Puffybush

My favorite non-food part of the MN State Fair is the Crop Art. Every year I swear I'm going to do it, but every year I fail. I really recommend the book Seed Queen: The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton. I miss Lilian! Anyone remember when she would sit at a table by the crop art display and do live demonstrations? She was too cute sitting there gluing one seed at a time with a toothpick. I love the butter heads too and the creative activities building, especially the quilts. People who have the patience to make quilts are amazing. I also love riding up the space tower. I do it first thing in the morning before there are any lines. The view is amazing from up there.


@Dr. Iris Puffybush The quilts are amazing, but it was the sock monkey gowns that blew my mind.


Texas State Fair 4-ever. That's all. Really, it's all you need.


Ok, so I've never been to a state fair, but when I read or hear about butter carvings, I always think of this song by Heywood Banks.


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