Updated 9/15/20: The Minnesota State Fair announced the Food Parade will return in October. Click here to learn more.
Tickets to the first-ever Minnesota State Fair Food Parade sold out in two hours at the end of July. It was one way Fair officials responded to the Great Minnesota Get Together being canceled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus. Overall, 19,000 tickets were sold.
The Food Parade features 16 food vendors (listed below), giving Minnesotans the chance to get a taste of the Fair. Fair officials are asking attendees for non-perishable food donations.
You may find tickets to the Food Parade on Craigslist, but it’s highly recommended you do not buy them, as you cannot verify they are not invalid copies of tickets. Fair officials limited ticket sales to not overwhelm vendors and create overwhelming lines of cars.
I attended the Food Parade on the first day of its 13 day run. Whether you’re attending closer to Labor Day or are just curious about how it was set up, here’s my experience of the Food Parade, along with answers to the questions you asked on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
There is a limit of five people ages 4+ per Food Parade ticket. If you want more people in your car, you can buy an EXTRAS ticket when you arrive to the event (you can also buy it online). You need a regular Food Parade ticket in order to buy an EXTRAS ticket.
You will want to enter the State Fairgrounds on Snelling Avenue at Hoyt Avenue, near the State Fair water tower. That’s just south of Larpenteur Avenue. Note that there is construction on Como Avenue, the road on the south side of the Fairgrounds.
We zipped right in. There was absolutely zero traffic on Snelling. We left the corner of Snelling and Hoyt at 1:40 and scanned our ticket at 1:48. The scanning station is quite a distance away from the entrance.
It is slightly easier to approach the Fairgrounds driving southbound, just because you don’t have to wait for the left arrow, but you can approach from the north or south. Note that this is the only entrance.
This was the most common question I received. We had tickets for 2:00 pm on Thursday, August 20. Here’s how it went:
Parade started: 2:02 pm
Parade ended: 3:13 pm
Total Parade time: 1 hour, 11 minutes
Total time on the Fairgrounds: 1 hour, 33 minutes
The Fair had more cars go through on the second day, so if you’re going, you might have to wait a bit longer. I would plan to be on the Fairgrounds for two hours.
State Fair officials ask that do you not arrive no more than 30 minutes earlier than your ticketed time. There really is no need to.
I packed a cooler with bottled water, because I knew we were going to consume a whole lot of salt.
I also had really awesome plastic plates with built in cupholders. They are from the State Fair Foundation’s Taste of the Fair event, which is typically held the Thursday before the Fair starts. It’s a great way to taste classic and new Fair foods in an intimate setting. Learn more about Taste of the Fair here.
We also packed napkins, Shout Wipes, and hand sanitizer.
Make sure someone in your vehicle brings cash, as Pronto Pups is cash only. I should note that Turkey to Go is credit card only. The State Fair’s website lists what methods of payment each vendor accepts. Note: Sweet Martha’s does accepts credit cards, although the State Fair’s website says its cash only.
You will need your own pen to write down your orders. Menus are provided. I would also bring a clipboard. You can attach your menu to it. And you can also clip your credit card to it, making it easier to find when you need to pay.
Face coverings are strongly encouraged, especially for drivers or those placing orders with vendor staff. Masks are not provided. The State Fair is selling Fair themed face coverings online. Learn more here.
I would strongly recommend bringing some Tupperware, as we had an overwhelming amount of food because the parade moved so fast and we could only eat so quickly. With the exception of Sweet Martha’s, nothing is served with a lid, so I would recommend bringing some storage.
Here’s your packing list:
This information wasn’t in the confirmation email I received from the Fair, so I asked State Fair officials. You can either print out your ticket (which is what I did), or show it on your smartphone.
In total, there are 16 food vendors. The route is a one-way, so you’ll approach them in this order:
A complete menu, along with prices, are available on the State Fair’s website.
The back half of the Food Parade (after Butcher Boys) went extremely fast. By then, the people in my car were extremely full from the classic Fair foods at the beginning of the route. We weren’t alone, as many cars around us were not stopping at Giggles’ Campfire Grill, El Sol, or the other vendors at the north end of the Fairgrounds, with the exception of Sweet Martha’s.
Most of it was. Many of the vendors are positioned at or very close to their booths, so they are able to use their own equipment.
Something felt off with the Dairy Goodness Bar. My vanilla malt wasn’t quite the same.
I was also missing the pump ketchup, malt vinegar and extra salt that come with the Fresh French Fries. You can get a little packet of ketchup with a bucket of fries, but it’s not the same.
At the Pronto Pups booth, they don’t brush on your ketchup or mustard. Instead, you’ll receive it in a plastic cup.
You only need one paper menu.
When you arrive to a particular vendor, you will tell them how many you want.
While you wait for the parade to start, you will want to take orders for everyone in your car. Before the parade started, we stopped halfway through the list, which was smart. We ended up getting really full and ended up passing on food from many vendors on the back half of the parade route.
We found that it was best that the driver focuses on driving and doesn’t write down orders, grab food, track the credit card, etc. I sat in the back, behind the driver, and was able to handle credit card transactions and collect food. I should note there were a couple times that vendors would approach from the passenger side of our car.
Honestly, it’s nothing to shake a stick at. There is a Minnesota State Fair branded lunch box, which you can use to store leftovers. You will receive a couple bags which may come in handy for storing leftovers. Other than that, and a random lightbulb, it’s nothing to get too excited about. As Michael Scott says on The Office, swag is “Stuff We All Get”.
Yes, you can. However, remember that if you use four credit cards at every booth, you’ll slow the entire parade down.
Our group found it best to use one credit card for the entire route. After Sweet Martha’s, we pulled into the Fair’s parking lot (right before Snelling) to eat cookies and to figure out how much each of us owed. A notepad came in handy.
So there aren’t really “bypass” lanes. The only vendors you can bypass are Dairy Goodness Bar, Butcher Boys, West Indies Soul Food, and Foot Long Hot Dogs. However, you have to bypass all four of them together. You can’t bypass just one or two of those four.
However, the Parade went a lot faster than we thought, so waiting wasn’t an issue. If we didn’t want a food, we would just drive by the workers.
Not really. You can get out of your car at a couple points to use the restroom. Those points are right after you scan your tickets and right before you arrive to Giggles’ Campfire Grill (towards the end of the parade). It should be noted that those restrooms are Port-a-Potties and not permanent structures. Those buildings are closed, so don’t bother.
You are not allowed out of your vehicle for any other reason.
When you check in, you will receive State Fair Bingo cards that are kid-friendly. There is some entertainment, but to be honest, it was a bit anti-climatic. We saw the Fair mascots, but it’s more of a “wave as we drive by” situation than a “stop and we’ll take a bunch of photos” situation.
Martha is the queen of the Fair. She serves up millions of cookies each year. I am fairly confident that she’s able to handle this more structured event. The State Fair knows how many tickets are sold for the Food Parade, and there is a limit of how many buckets each car can buy.
Don’t go alone. Considering the parade’s fast pace, it would be way too difficult to drive and eat at the same time.
If you want condiments with a particular food, don’t be afraid to ask for them. They’re not always offered.
Our car really liked State Fair Radio, which played a wide array of hits, including sing-alongs. The station, run by iHeartRadio, can be found at 101.3-HD3.
There’s a limit of five people per car. We had four people in our SUV, and we were glad we didn’t have a fifth person. With the garbage bag, the cooler of water, the trays of food and everything else, another person in the middle seat would have been too much.
Overall, the whole Food Parade experience was quite positive. In just over an hour, we enjoyed some of the most popular State Fair foods. And we got to sit in an air conditioned car while doing it. When you think about a traditional State Fair experience, the Parade beats taking a bus to the Fairgrounds, paying for admission, walking around to a vendor, waiting in line, walking to another vendor, you get the idea…. However, you miss the people watching and the grandeur that is the Great Minnesota Get Together.
The 2021 Minnesota State Fair takes place August 26 through September 6, 2021.
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Category: randoMNessTags: 2020 Minnesota State Fair, 2020 Minnesota State Fair foods, Food Parade, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minnesota State Fair, Minnesota State Fair foods, Minnesota State Fair Foundation, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, MN, MN State Fair, Saint Paul, State Fair, State Fair foods, State Fairgrounds, Sweet Martha's cookies, Taste of the Fair
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