A Guide to the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade

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.

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The Minnesota State Fair Food Parade route. Image courtesy Minnesota State Fair

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.

“How many people can you have in your vehicle? Can I invite more friends?”

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.

“Where do I enter the Fairgrounds?”

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.

“How was traffic on Snelling? Assume it’s easier to enter driving southbound on Snelling? How much time did you spend in traffic on Snelling before you got to show someone your ticket and get into your times entry queue?

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.

“How long does it take?”

malt

This was the most common question I received. We had tickets for 2:00 pm on Thursday, August 20. Here’s how it went:

  • 1:40 pm — Arrived on the Fairgrounds. Once you arrive, you are able to become a Friend of the Fair for $25. In return, you receive a car flag.
  • 1:48 pm — Scanned ticket at gate, received goodie bag (see below), chance to use restroom and ATM, corralled to spot in Midway.
  • 2:02 pm — Our row of cars started to move.
  • 2:12 pm — Great photo opportunity! Safely take a photo of your passengers in front of the Minnesota State Fair logo on the building connecting the Coliseum to the Cattle Barn.
  • 2:22 pm — Received food from the first stop, Turkey to Go.
  • 2:23 pm — Received food from the second stop, Tom Thumb Mini Donuts.
  • 2:32 pm — Received food from the third stop, Fresh French Fries.
  • 2:35 pm — Received food from the fourth stop, Mouth Trap Cheese Curds.
  • 2:40 pm — Received food from the fifth stop, Que Viet.
  • 2:40 pm — Passed the sixth stop, Sweets & Treats.
  • 2:44 pm — Received food from the seventh stop, Pronto Pups.
  • 2:49 pm — Received food from the eighth stop, Dairy Goodness Bar.
  • 2:57 pm — Received food from the ninth stop Butcher Boys.
  • 2:57 pm — Passed the 10th stop, West Indies Soul Food.
  • 2:57 pm — Passed the 11th stop, Foot Long Hot Dogs.
  • 2:57 pm — Bathroom break (this is the only “official” bathroom break once you start receiving food).
  • 3:01 pm — Passed the 12th stop, Cheese-On-A-Stick.
  • 3:02 pm — Passed the 13th stop, Giggles’ Campfire Grill.
  • 3:03 pm — Passed the 14th stop, El Sol Mexican Grill.
  • 3:06 pm — Passed the 15th stop, The Hangar.
  • 3:11 pm — Received food from the final stop, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar.
  • 3:13 pm — Found spot in empty parking lot to enjoy cookies.

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.

“What did you bring with you?”

I packed a cooler with bottled water, because I knew we were going to consume a whole lot of salt.

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These plates with cupholders, which are given to attendees at the Minnesota State Fair’s Taste of the Fair fundraiser, worked really well for the Food Parade.

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:

  • Bottled water/beverages (the vendors do sell beverages, but there’s really no need to buy them when you can bring your own)
  • Cooler
  • Tupperware with lids
  • Plates
  • Napkins (you’ll need more than what vendors give you)
  • Tide to Go/Shout Wipes
  • Bib
  • Garbage bag for your car
  • Clipboard
  • Pen (I’m not sure why they didn’t provide one in the goodie bag)
  • Face coverings
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Notepad (see why below)
  • Cash and credit card

“Do I have to print out my ticket?”

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.

“What foods are there?”

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In total, there are 16 food vendors. The route is a one-way, so you’ll approach them in this order:

  1. Turkey to Go Turkey Sandwiches
  2. Tom Thumb Mini Donuts
  3. Fresh French Fries
  4. Mouth Trap Cheese Curds
  5. Que Viet (Egg Rolls On-A-Stick, Cream Cheese Wontons)
  6. Sweets & Treats (Cotton Candy, Caramel Apples)
  7. Pronto Pups
  8. Dairy Goodness Bar (malts)
  9. Butcher Boys/Pitchfork Sausage (London Broil, Italian Sausage)
  10. West Indies Soul Food (Jamaican Patties, Jerk Chicken)
  11. Foot Long Hot Dogs
  12. Cheese On-A-Stick and Lemonade
  13. Giggles’ Campfire Grill (Walleye Cakes, Duck Bacon Wontons)
  14. El Sol Mexican (Tacos, Burritos)
  15. The Hangar (Tater Twister, Fried Oreos)
  16. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

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.

“Was the food as good as it normally is at the Fair?”

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.

“Can we get two menus so each couple can pay separately or do we all have to order off one?”

menu

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.

“What’s inside the goodie bag you receive with your ticket?”

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”.

“Is it possible to pay separately when at the booths?”

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.

“Do you have to stop at each place or can one pass by a food you don’t want?”

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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.

“Can I get out of my car?”

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.

“How are families keeping kids occupied?”

bingo

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.

“How do they manage demand for things like Sweet Marthas?”

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.

“Other words of wisdom?”

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.

Also on Give Me The Mike…

Digitized with Negative Lab Pro
Photo credit Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

Ways to celebrate the Minnesota State Fair in 2020

Have a question about the Food Parade? Send me a note!

3 Comments on “A Guide to the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade

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