Sure, there are risotto balls and craft beers and breakfast Jucy Lucys to be had. But scattered in-between those must-have eats/drinks and this year's "sexy" seed art are often-overlooked gems of the State Fair.
As a one-person blogger who doesn't need the consensus of a staff, I hereby delcare these the "best" off-the-beaten-path State Fair must-dos.
1. Dance at Opaa at the Fair. After taking a blue-water-filled tour of a cinder block dungeon just to see the beautiful one-dimensional leprechaun dioramas in Ye Old Mill, head across the street to Opaa at the Fair, on the corner of Carnes and Underwood. Where else can you watch a live band go from Van Halen's "Jump" to Prince's "Sexy Mother-effer" while people in paper pig ears dance with yard sticks?
There's live music every day, but the best band, the BluPrint, plays Sunday, August 24 and August 29, 30, 31. It's the happiest and most diverse crowd you'll see. Plus, you can grab a craft brew and some deep fried baklava on a stick.
2. Hunt for the best T-shirt slogan (The Game). Our senses are already on overload when we're wandering along Dan Patch Avenue. It only makes sense to turn all of that visual data into a game—one you can actually win. Track all of the T-shirt slogans you see moving in the space around you. At the end of the day, compare with your friends/family. The winner gets a link to a random New Yorker cartoon.
My winner from yesterday: "History has a way of repeating itself itself itself itself."
3. Explore the 4H Building. There's something both gentle and antiquated about 4H. And maybe that's the beauty of it—an anachronism dedicated to setting a course for the future. In the 4H building, diplays aren't high-design interactive; they're made on cardboard using stencils and smelly markers.
Even if you don't care about, say, Ukrainian eggs, the crudely drawn images and scissors-designed displays almost always evoke a heart-gulping sense of empathy for their creator. Some of my favorite projects from this year include:
"Dance Shoes" Who needs to do research when pictures of shoes do it for you?
"Growing Gummy Bears" Artist hypothesis: "I think the water will affect the amount the gummy bears grow."
"Patriotic Ladder Golf" It's like ladder golf. Only it's red, white, and blue.
Tip: Make the 4H building your last stop. Even a grumpy crowd-loather is sure to leave with a bigger heart.
What are your favorite "best kept secrets" of the State Fair? Share your favorites in the comments below. I promise not to send the crowds there.
It makes sense that the idea for the Floating Library came to artist Sarah Peters while she was drifting away in a boat, aching to do something more than stare at the reflection of the sun. "Beach reading is so common," she says. "So why aren't people in their canoes reading?"
Starting this weekend, on Cedar Lake, boaters will get the chance to turn from their poles (or their navels or sun glares) to books, many of which are delicate hand-crafted works of art by local artists such as Molly Balcom Raleigh, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund and Areca Roe. The Floating Library takes to the waters of the South Minneapolis lake from August 16 through September 13, the perfect literary cast off to a near-perfect summer.
"When you are doing something as uncommon as a library on a lake, there are a number of things you have to explain," says Peters.
So here's what you need to know before heading out:
1. The Floating Library sets sail on Cedar Lake this weekend, and runs Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month from 11am to 5pm.
2. How do you get to it? You just paddle out to it. Swim out to it. Raft out to it. Inner tube to it. You get the drift...
3. It was designed with the help of architect Molly Reichert, and has its own shelving system. You can actually check out the books from your boat. (Eat this, fish.)
4. It functions like a real library, meaning you have a week to return the books you borrow. Don't worry, though. If you can't make it back to Cedar Lake, you can return the books at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Boneshaker Books, Pillsbury House Theater, and Wheel Fun Rentals on Lake Calhoun.
5. While you can check out traditional old paperbacks, artists nationwide have designed books with the concept of water and wetness in mind. Artist Molly Balcolm Raleigh, for example, has created copies of her edible book "Fake Fish." The book, made of nori and cornstarch, can be read and then returned to the lake as fish food. (A true meta cycle of life.)
6. Unlike "Little Free Libraries," where you take a book maybe secretly and only interact with the tiny door and its tiny handle, the unique aspect of the Floating Library is the sense of community it brings along with it. Minnesota lakes function as their own little towns, often with their own culture and unwritten rules. The Floating Library adds to that sense of community and creates a new element of exchange.
7. Imagine what else we could do while drifting along our lakes: A floating post office, exchanging hand-written letters and ideas?
8. How have people responded to the prototype, which tested the waters for the first time last year? "There were two categories," Peters said. "People were either totally delighted with surprise and wonder, or they totally ignored us." Sounds like the perfect library experience.
About four years ago, I was lucky enough to inherit this great guy. The one staring at me over my computer. With those take-me-for-a-walk eyes. It was less of an "inheritance" and more of a desperate move involving way too much money to stop his previous owner, who lived down the street, from dumping him at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC).
Scoobi, his given name, was only five months old then, didn't know his name from a bird song, and spent most of his days tied in the neighbor's back yard with his tail as his favorite toy and best friend. I knew a dog like Scoobi didn't stand a chance. For more than 15 years, MACC didn't allow pit bulls to be adopted out to the public. That meant that in 2011 alone, for example, more than half were euthanized because they couldn't find foster homes.
MACC's long-standing policy changed in June of this year, when the organization lifted its adoption ban on pit bulls, thanks to a City Council resolution that infused more money into the shelter to evaluate and home pit bulls and Rottweilers. “The breeds got such a bashing, but now you move forward,” Jeanette Wiedemeier Bower, Animal Care and Control’s program development coordinator, told the Strib in June. “We’ve got to trust the public.”
It was a significant meausure for Minneapolis, helping to advocate for responsible dog ownership and leading the way for other cities to reexamine their own animal ordinances.
Now MACC is taking another big step in its commitment to re-home dogs of all breeds. In a new partnership between MACC and the Animal Humane Society, anyone who is qualified to adopt a "power breed" dog (pit bull or Rottweiler) from MACC will also be able to get two months of free training.
It's an important move forward not only for pit bulls and Rottweilers, but for dog owners. Training not only increases a dog's trust, confidence, and happiness, it increases their bonds with people, too. A recent study shows that dogs don't just respond to commands for the "treats," either. They're naturally inclined to problem-solve and people-please. In fact, due to tens of thousands of years of domestication, dogs are naturally more in tune with humans than they are with other dogs in their family or pack.
Scoobi may have been seriously doggy delayed when he came home with me that day, but when his typical pit bull "smile" stops people in their tracks at the park, I always like to show off how smart and connected he is to me, thanks to countless hours of training. There's nothing like shaking "hands" with an 85-pound smiling pit bull to make people believe in the power of the dog-human bond.
Earlier this week, during National Night Out, I took my dog for a walk through the mazes of bouncy castles and water guns and smoking BBQ pits.
We were wandering interlopers. Gathering snapshots of the blocks and communities that surround us.
A woman came over with her kids and asked if she could pet my dog. "Where do you live?" I asked. Because this is the awkward intro question people ask each other on National Night Out. She told me she lived about eight blocks away. She said she was stopping at parties all over because, she admitted, "my kids and me are hungry." They were going from block to block, she said, picking out pieces to make their first good meal in days.
The thing is, this is not so unusual.
According to recent data from Hunger Solutions Minnesota, 1 in 5 families in Minnesota faces hunger or food insecurity. To be "food insecure" means you lack access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.
Rising food insecurity—or not knowing where your next meal is coming from—is the result of numerous shifting factors. Food affordability. Increased personal debt. Price surges. The housing crisis. Changing medical needs and costs. Steady employment.
According to HSM, Minnesota's real household income is down 9.5 percent over the last ten years. And in the summertime, without school lunches, it gets increasingly hard for families already on the brink to make ends meet. In 2013, HSM says, food-shelf usage in the nine-county metro area reached a record number 1.7 million visits. Or a nearly 50 percent increase from pre-recession numbers.
Unpacking all of the issues related to food insecurity (public policy, farming, the economy, a growing public health crisis) is a lot to do in this short blog post.
But here is a small snapshot of people you probably know. People in your community. People who live a few blocks away. People who live next door....
If summers in Minnesota were meausured in seashells, we'd have a handful of broken and chipped sand dollars we treasured like gold. Like our too-short summers, seashells are magical, fragile, otherworldly formations, totally flattened and pancaked by the weight of everything between it.
August can feel like the month of anxious. There are a million things to do before autumn dances its way into summer's private party. But if you make a list, my mom says, everything will be just fine. So before we bid our sand dollar summers adieu, here are a few not-to-be-missed gems to honor our sweetest season.
1. Go to Sea Salt at least twice. Tip: Go to the drink line first, just around the corner from the food line. Get a beer or a carafe of wine. Meet your neighbors. Have strange conversations about why you prefer black licorice over red. Discover you could be lifelong friends.
2. Visit St. Anthony Falls Water Power Park. Situated right along St. Anthony Main, this park is the perfect wedding of nature and city and offers some of the most breathtaking views of Minneapolis. The Guthrie's vertical scroll is a beautiful accompaniment to the pines reaching for the sky.
3. Check out Hidden Falls in St. Paul. Have a picnic. Build a fire. Toss some horseshoes. Beware of mosquitoes.
4. Attend a St. Paul Saints game. The stadium will be gone after this year. Soak up some history at the original home of everyone's favorite minor league team.
5. Walk through our past. Milwaukee Avenue, White Castle, S. Edward Hall House...They are all part of 25 metro area places and properties to be found on the National Register of Historic Places.
6. Tour a scenic byway on bike. Did you know that the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis is a designated National Scenic Byway? Forget the small town kitsch of a road trip and hop on a bike to tour downtown, the Chain of Lakes, and the Mississippi River.
7. Go to the top of the Foshay Tower. The observation deck is located on the 30th floor of this historic landmark.
8. Visit the Bakken Museum. Did you know the Bakken is the world's only museum dedicated to medical electricity? Step into the dream-filled former home of William Goodfellow and explore the power electricity and magnetism have to make our world better.
9. Walk along Stone Arch Bridge. This might be one of the best views of the city, with the Guthrie's "endless bridge" extending its arms out to you and the skyline like lit-up trophies in your own diorama.
What would you add to this list?