Animals, rides, beer, food, international shops, Minnesota wines and a robot


Even though I’m not a hardcore state fair-tripper, my visit on opening day was fun, filled with curiosities ranging from a life-like singing and dancing robot to a 1,186-pound pumpkin.

My companion and I first passed by a group of ducks nesting in a pond in the shadow of a bronze moose and wildflowers – an odd juxtaposition between real and unreal in the well-planned DNR section. Nearby, sunfish swam in a man-made pool. “The first fish you ever caught was probably a sunfish,” a DNR guide told the mid-sized crowd that circled the pond.

Just beyond, I caught a glimpse of a big fish that wasn’t in water; it was a found-art sculpture, nicknamed Urgie the Sturgeon. Artist Damian Jackman fashioned the structure out of millions of pounds of debris that volunteers had helped remove from local waterways. A statement posted alongside the thing references Jackman’s description of the nearly extinct sturgeon as a symbol of the plight of river species. Some fair-goers tried to identify its jumbled components, which varied from what looked to be 1940s car parts to crushed plastic bottles to rugs.

My fair-going companion, Sean is a chef, and he made the point that it was time for more food. (It quickly became obvious that he was in this for the eats.) Throughout the afternoon, he made sure that we sampled a number of greasy fair foods including the standard cheese curds and mini donuts, which we washed down with a couple pints of Minnesota-made premium beer.

In the sheep and poultry barn, we walked up and down aisles full of furry, feathered, and woolly creatures. Some rabbits, which came in many difference sizes and colors, sat upright, as if trying to maintain a sense of propriety, while others reclined lazily.

At the agriculture/horticulture building, we came across some noteworthy Minnesota wines. Both of us favored Zeitgeist, a white wine from the underground Morgan Creek Vineyards in Blue Earth. Apricot and Muscat aromas combined with “an appealing late harvest style,” according to a brochure. It’s made out of the University of Minnesota-developed LaCrescent grape, according to the Morgan Creek Web site.

Award-winning carrots, pumpkins and other beautiful vegetables were on display in the same building, underscoring the importance of farming in Minnesota, an underlying fair theme. Seeing the fruits of farmer and gardener labors close-up, was impressive, especially since I can barely keep my four houseplants alive.

Shortly thereafter, Sean and I decided to brave the Sky Ride. From a wobbly tomato-red container, we got a birds-eye view of the festivities, which was a nice respite (my feet were tired). After that Sean scored a $2 slice of pizza from a small stand in the Midway. We saw a lot of people hauling oversized stuffed animals and bananas and encountered a muscle-bound robot that was reminiscent of Buzz Lightyear from the movie Toy Story. Rock-It is a high-tech body puppet that “talks, walks and rocks!” according to its website. One man asked in disbelief,  “There’s a person in there, right?”

“No, it’s a robot,” one member of Rock-It’s security team piped up.

Sadly, my camera died early on, so I was unable to get a picture with the friendly bot, which stands nine feet tall and boasts speech, music and sound effects.

Before we left, we made one last stop at the international bazaar, which we realized was the origin of the flopping sombreros we’d seen people sporting all over the place.

Going from table to table, we admired such trinkets as wooden long-necked cats (handmade), spicy salsas from Trinidad, and Italian leather shoes. I left with a silky cerulean blue sarong. Since it was nearing 10 p.m., we made our way back to the bus stop, declaring our visit to the fair a successful one.


Anna Pratt (email is a freelance journalist living and working in Minneapolis.


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