Aug 23, 2012 at 8:41 am
ST. PAUL, MN (KNSI) – It's the traditional wrap-up to summer here in Minnesota -- and starting today, hundreds of thousands will be treated to all the finest that the state has to offer at the annual Minnesota State Fair in suburban St. Paul.
Thursday is day one of twelve for the State Fair. Running through Labor Day the fairgrounds expect between 1.6 and 1.8 million people to spin the turnstiles. The biggest draw for fair-goers is no surprise.
"When we ask people why they come to the state fair, they have a whole slew of reasons why they may want to join us for the fair, but the number one reason they tell us is for the food," Fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette said.
Highlighting the menu of nearly 500 taste options will be 40 items, brand new for the 2012 fair.
"Everything from bacon ice cream, to eggplant fries, to a French dog," Schuette said. "We've got all sorts of different options, some healthy choices, some gluten free options, some cultural foods that we are adding to the mix."
But the unique attractions at the fair are not limited to what may please your palate. Concerts, rides, live-stock and vendors always take a prominent place in the mind of fair-goers.
"We worked very, very hard to bring in the best of the best as it relates to food and merchants and those artisans that you see all over the fair-grounds," Schuette said.
An old time fair stand-by will be part of this year's fair.
"The 'World of Wonders Palace of Illusions' side show entertainment is back on the Mighty Midway," Schuette said. "You will see sword swallowers, fire eaters, fire breathers and all of those kind of illusions from side shows past will be back at the Midway."
As for all the livestock presentations, including the 4-H purple ribbon auction and the new high school rodeo cutting horse exhibition, those will be featured in the brand-new Ag Star Arena, just one of the new additions and upgrades to the fairgrounds themselves this year.
"In any given year the state fair is financially self-supporting, we don't get taxpayer dollars or government funds of any kind, so funding for capital investments is somewhat of a challenge," Schuette said."But we do reinvest a few million dollars in our buildings and grounds every year."
Grandstand entertainment kicks off Thursdaywith Bonnie Raitt. Also on the bill over the next 12 days -- Alan Jackson, Demi Lovato, Kiss and the Jayhawks... those shows require an extra ticket on top of fair admission.
As for those making the trip from Central Minnesota, there are options to make getting to the fairgrounds easier than ever.
"If you're coming from St. Cloud a really great recommendation is to park at the national sports center in Blaine where we have an express bus running from 8 to midnight every day," Schuette said. "You can park your car for free and for a $5 fee you can ride that bus from the national sports center down to the fairgrounds and back."
Other new additions to the fair this year an 11,000 square foot inflatable sculpture that visitors can walk through and seven new rides including a swing capable of lifting riders 200 feet into the air.
The gates of the state fair are open from 6 a.m. to midnight every day. For complete information and details visit the Minnesota State Fair online at mnstatefair.org.
Temp: 25°F (-4°C)
Wind: 13mph S
Wind Chill: 14°F