Since its founding in 1859, the Minnesota State Fair has made a tradition of hosting regional artisans and innovative home-state product designers.
“We’re looking for something that hasn’t been seen yet, or an undiscovered artist,” explained Pam Simon, the fair’s manager of concessions and exhibits. “We get excited about bringing something new to fairgoers.”
Traditionally, most vendors were concentrated in four key areas: West End Market, Merchandise Mart, International Bazaar and the Grandstand. But this year, finally, the fair boasts a new shopping and dining destination: the Veranda, located on the upper level of the Grandstand’s west side.
The refurbished space is filled with homegrown vendors representing Minnesota culture, ranging from vintage and upcycled goods to new made-in-Minnesota products. Visitors will find locally sourced consumables, too, including craft beers, wines and eats from the new 1920s-themed bar and eatery Hideaway Speakeasy.
Making the space even more attractive, the Veranda boasts a balcony with patio seating and spectacular views, overlooking Adventure Park and West End Market. And Simon’s team gave it an eclectic, vintage feel by decorating with old State Fair signage.
“People love destinations,” said Simon. “It’s a beautiful location with a gorgeous view. We realized we were underutilizing this space.”
Here are a few new and favorite Minnesota State Fair vendors:
Adam Turman Gallery
Minneapolis artist, illustrator and printmaker Adam Turman is best known for his colorful murals covering building facades across the Twin Cities, but he also sells products featuring original designs that celebrate Minnesota pride. For his first appearance at the fair, Turman will debut two new series of pint glasses highlighting Minnesota landmarks and pastimes. He’s also selling his-and-hers gold-foil whiskey glasses featuring the Minneapolis skyline, new T-shirts, tumblers, Silipints (unbreakable silicon drinking cups) and tea towels. adamturman.com
Location: The Veranda
Hagen and Oats
This Newport-based brand specializes in handmade, Minnesota-themed wood decor and signs. Founded by sisters Anna Hagen and Nikki Hollerich in 2015, the rustic line of merchandise was inspired by a piece the pair created with a bandsaw for Hagen’s living room. They’ve since expanded the selection to include a limited-edition “Minnesota on a Stick” (think: a small state emblem attached to a wooden dowel), tic-tac-toe games, cribbage boards and their bestselling “Beer Me” — a Minnesota-shaped beer bottle opener. hagenandoats.com
Location: The Veranda
For its second year at the fair, the Northwoods-inspired apparel brand is bringing back its mobile pop-up shop — a retrofitted 1972 Fleetwing Chickadee trailer painted a bright, can’t-miss-it teal. Sota Clothing was founded six years ago by UMD grad Spencer Johnson. Look for sweatshirts, ball caps, shorts, tank tops, tees and baby onesies. During the fair, Sota will debut five new apparel items, including a T-shirt featuring a lighthouse design created by Duluth local Tyler Johnson. sotaclothing.com
Location: The North Woods
Founded by the mother-daughter team of Rose and Gretchen Heim in northern Minnesota in 2012, Heim-Made specializes in handmade cold-weather apparel and accessories. Their products are designed to provide clever-yet-stylish solutions to dressing for the cold. That includes quilted, reversible down skirts and vests; the down-insulated “cocoon,” which is part vest and part jacket; and the “blankcoat,” which is a long, down-insulated coat designed for the coldest winter days (it also transforms into a blanket). Other items include hats made from recycled wool coats and hand-dyed, colorful striped tights. heimmade.com
Location: Grandstand, lower level, southwest section
The Winona-based maker of spices, skin care and home cleaning products has been a State Fair staple for more than 25 years. In fact, the brand has been around since 1868 — making it just nine years younger than the fair, and one of the country’s oldest apothecaries. This year the company will sell a selection of natural cleaning products, personal care items, health remedies, candles, spices, extracts and gourmet foods. jrwatkins.com Location: West End Market, southwest section
Also new at the fair this year:
American Craftsmen: Handcrafted wooden canoes, paddles, fishing lures, tackleboxes, jewelry and wooden beer mugs. Plus: fishing paintings. Located in the grandstand, upper level, north wall
Blue Gate Pottery: Handcrafted artisan pottery imported from the Moroccan city of Fez, with colorful patterns on plates, bowls, pitchers, cups and platters. International Bazaar, south wall
Creations by Will: Shaving sets, wood-handled straight razors, shaving brushes and stands, wood-turned shaving bowls, handmade shave soaps, aftershaves and hand-carved wood sculptures. West End Market, southeast section
House of Pistachios: Prepackaged nuts, dried fruits and candies, and butter toffee, salted, unsalted, chocolate and spicy nuts. Grandstand, lower level, center section
JessVintage: Vintage home goods and jewelry, including rings, bracelets and lockets, plus make-your-own personalized jewelry. Grandstand, upper level, west section
Lotion in a Bar: All-natural handcrafted lotion in a bar, featuring a variety of scents, plus lip balm. Grandstand, lower level, northeast section
Northland Woolens: Socks, hats, headbands, mittens, gloves, yarn and accessories in wool and wool blends, plus recycled wool hats and mittens. Grandstand, upper level
Ooh La La: Women’s, kids’ and baby apparel and accessories, plus wall art featuring local lakes. The Veranda, grandstand, upper level
Sassy Pecan: Sticky Doohickey rice treats, toasted Georgia pecan coffee and Kentucky maple bourbon coffee. The Veranda, grandstand, upper level
Selina Vaughan Studios: Original vintage seed sack handbags, licensed agricultural image bags and “found art” repurposed jewelry. The Veranda, grandstand, upper level
Team Fat Bike: Men’s, women’s and children’s electric fat tire bikes for cruising, relaxing and street riding. Ramberg Center
Tennessee Moonshine Cakes: Cakes are baked from scratch in lemon, blueberry and chocolate chip varieties, plus Moonshine jams and honey. Warner Coliseum, south side
Valley Craft Industries: Collector’s edition garage steel cabinets. Grandstand, upper level, east section
Jahna Peloquin is a Minneapolis-based fashion, design and arts writer.