Shari L. Gross
Video (01:00) Virtual State Fair Timelapse

You could almost hear the collective groan across the state when the State Fair was canceled. Hasn't 2020 been hard enough without taking away mini donuts, free milk and a trip down the Giant Slide?

In that frame of mind, the features team at the Star Tribune started to dream up how we could save the fair — that is, how we could provide contests, events and guides to keep it going, virtually and in our pages, until next year.

What would happen, we wondered, if we asked a bunch of musicians to record mini-Grandstand concerts for us? It turned out that Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Andre Cymone, the Jayhawks, Jearlyn Steele and more were excited to do so. Thirteen acts in all signed up.

Our Metro columnist Jennifer Brooks began reaching out to experts in State Fair craft, and she got this year's butter carver to show us all how to uncover our own princess from a one-pound slab. And Sweet Martha stepped up to share how to bake cookies, and more.

Speaking of food, we knew we wouldn't be able to get it on-site, but food writers Rick Nelson and Sharyn Jackson dedicated themselves to hunting down trucks, shacks, restaurants and even grocery story aisles that would be providing corn dogs, cheese curds and other annual favorites.

Beer writer Michael Agnew knew we'd be missing the overview of specialty craft brew that the fair affords. As an alternative, he's leading virtual beer tastings, one for summer and one for winter, which we'll be airing on both Thursdays of the Great Not Getting Together fest of 2020.

Is a virtual fair even a fair without a talent competition? We thought not, so we're hosting one and asking you to be the judges.

What about trivia? Nothing whets the appetite for a meal on a stick like answering questions about our state. Curious Minnesota's Eric Roper and business writer Nicole Norfleet will host our contest, and we hope you'll play for the fabulous prize packages and bragging rights.

Finally, during the fair we'll offer a dash of one-minute history lessons from the fairgrounds with fast-talking James Lileks.

We hope our daily slate of activities will ease the no-fair pain of 2020.

Sue Campbell • 612-673-4032