OK, that headline will be the last of the side-show banter, I promise, but I do want to welcome you to the annual Joe Kimball State Fair Blog, a compendium of the interesting and odd, the unusual and quirky, the tasty and the smelly — and all the other aspects of the 12-day spectacle that starts Thursday and marks the end of summer in Minnesota.
Last year I wrote this fair blog (wait a minute, it was way better than fair) for the Star Tribune. We called it Deep Fried Joe, and it was fun. At least for me. But I don’t work for the newspaper anymore. After 31 years as a Strib reporter — the last 20 as the paper’s St. Paul columnist — I took a buyout with 75 of my colleagues and joined the growing ranks of non-reporting reporters.
Still, the fair beckoned. And Minnesota Monitor answered. So I’ve got a gig for 12 days and will explore the fairgrounds on behalf of readers everywhere, venturing from Machinery Hill to the horse barns, from Heritage Square to the Education Building. With stops at all ports in-between.
My mission: Find things that I think are cool and pass them along for your consideration. Yes, I know this is largely a public affairs web site. And I don’t care. It would get staler than yesterday’s cheese curds if we spent the next 12 days stalking the glad-handing politicians who find their way to the fair each year like bees to the cotton candy booth. Sure, if Chris Coleman burns his mouth on a corn dog or his non-brother Norm gets lost in Ye Olde Mill, I’ll let you know. But mostly we’ll just have some fun.
Fair-lovers can use this to help plan their annual treks to Falcon Heights; fair-haters can read all about it and be reassured of their good sense in skipping the crowds, the heat and the grease. Either way, it’s win-win.
I plan to post about five different times a day on weekdays, with a round-up of sorts for the weekends.
One of the interviews I have planned is with the mother-daughter author team of Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky, whose coffee-table book “Minnesota State Fair; An Illustrated History” was just published by Coffee House Press. They’ll be at the fair signing autographs and I’ve got to ask them how them came up with 1,200 historic fair photos and 120 recipes to go along with their text. Last August I spent a couple hours in the fair’s archive dungeon and found maybe a dozen photos that I posted in the blog. And they found 1,200. God bless their searching hearts.
Last year I sampled most of the new fair foods: hot dish on a stick and the wild rice pronto pups were among the most talked about. I survived both. This year they’ve got on tap such first-time fair delicacies as: apple fries, calamari, fried fruit on a stick, s’mores on a stick and sloppy joes on a stick. I won’t have the big Strib state fair expense account this year, but I’ll do my best to get to the bottom of the culinary quagmire that we know as fair food.
I’ll visit old friends, meet new ones, check out the fashion and the fads, the nose rings on cattle and kids, the rides and the riders.
So keep on checking in. Tell your friends. Tell my friends. Tell Al Sicherman’s friends.
For more details on directions, grandstand acts, free shows, admission and more, check out the fair’s web site at Minnesota State Fair.
See ya’ out here.