Minnesota State Fair
Outdoors on a stick
Minnesota State Fair planners had the sportsman and sportswoman in mind when they settled on dates for the annual get-together. The fact is, the fair is perfectly timed when it comes to enjoying the outdoors without feeling like you’re missing precious time afield. Below, a dozen ways to get your fix.
All-Star Stunt Dog Splash
With three shows every day on the North Woods Stage, these dogs (all of which have been adopted from shelters across the country) perform a wide variety of tricks, from diving off docks to jumping rope. It’s a great show for anyone who likes dogs and a great preseason reminder that well-trained canines are capable of just about anything.
Kids love Machinery Hill because they can sit on lawn mowers, tractors and other big equipment. Grown-ups love it because, if just for a few moments, they can ponder what it would be like to work a piece of ground instead of sit behind a desk each day. For outdoorists, Machinery Hill is a must-stop place because it’s home to all sorts of tools that can be used to create and improve wildlife habitat on their land.
The Eco Experience includes a variety of family and kid-friendly exhibits that teach people about topics such as clean water, recycling and transportation — all of which affect the environment. The exhibits are without a doubt green in nature, but healthy landscapes and clean waters ensure sportsmen have plenty of fish to catch and animals to hunt.
Hagen & Oats booth
Whether at home or in the cabin, few things are as beautiful as wildlife art crafted from wood. The sisters behind Hagen & Oats, Nikki Hollerich and Anna Hagen create a wide variety of pieces, but people will find their framed carvings of big bucks, lakes and moose particularly interesting. For those who prefer something with a little more utility, there are also beer openers and cribbage boards.
American Craftsmen booth
Most people don’t have the patience or talent to bring old wood back to life. They see a piece of wood and see just that — a piece of wood. The folks at American Craftsmen, however, see what could be: for example, old wood transformed into a fishing lure, tackle box, canoe paddle — or a canoe itself.
Walleye on a stick
There’s nothing that screams State Fair like food on a stick. That’s especially true when the food on the end is meat from the state fish. Minnesotans love the fine texture and subtle flavor of walleye meat. Cooking walleye over an open flame on a northern shoreline is about as good as it gets. But there isn’t a lake at the State Fair, and lighting a campfire there would be frowned upon. Walleye on a stick is a pretty good alternative.
Minnesota Wine Country
The Minnesota Wine Country booth celebrates and educates fair-goers about the state’s thriving wine industry. While it’s interesting to note some grapes can withstand the extraordinarily harsh conditions that often mark Minnesota’s winters, it’s fun to think about which of the wines made in Minnesota would pair best with fish and wildlife harvested in the state.
Fish heads, unite
It’s nearly impossible to be a sportsman or woman and not make the DNR Building and fish pond one of your first stops. As mesmerizing to adults as children, the fish pond holds dozens of Minnesota species – from the common (crappies and walleyes, for example) to the decidedly uncommon (gar and paddlefish). New this year is a display showing the movement for the past year of a paddlefish wired with a transmitter. It was in the pond last year, and released back into the St. Croix River after the State Fair ended.
The politician parade
Who wants to go to the State Fair and talk politics? An understandable position, to be sure, but the reality is that politicians — from the local level on up — play key roles in setting the policies and allocating the dollars that dictate what sporting people and others see on the landscape. Tired of impaired waters, disappearing grasslands or not having enough places to hunt? Find the person who represents you and let him or her know.
Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit
The exhibit showcases Minnesota’s strong and growing craft beer industry, and includes a root beer section for kids. While relaxing with a beer is a great way to wind down after a day on the lake or in the field, there’s also a trend where people — like they do with wine — pair craft beers with wild game. Understanding more about beer ingredients, and how it’s made, helps people drill down to pairings.
Minnesota is lucky to have a wealth of state parks. They’re premier spots for camping but, let’s face it, the idea of spending the night in a tent isn’t for everyone. For those who want more than a tent, but less than a motel, there are camper cabins on display near the DNR Building. These utilitarian, no-frills cabins provide shelter and a place to sleep, and many of them include electricity.
Pheasants Forever booth
The Pheasants Forever (PF) booth is a great stop for anyone who has an urge to talk about wildlife habitat and the upcoming hunting season. The group will have a bunch of staff members on hand ready and willing to chat with those who stop. In addition, PF is giving out free booklets full of upland game recipes.