GUIDE: All the ways you can celebrate the Minnesota State Fair in 2020

The 2020 Minnesota State Fair may be canceled, but State Fair officials and business owners are coming up ways you can get your fix of the Great Minnesota Get Together. Here’s a full list of activities and events taking place.

Food and Drink

{SOLD OUT} State Fair Food Parade

food parade
Tickets to the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade sold out in hours.

Operated by the Minnesota State Fair, the State Fair Food Parade allows ticket-holders the chance to drive thru the Fairgrounds and purchase food and beverage from 16 vendors, including Turkey To Go sandwiches, Tom Thumb mini donuts, cheese curds, malts, cheese-on-a-stick and Sweet Martha’s cookies. Tickets for the 13 day event sold out in less than two hours. Read about my Food Parade experience here.

Where to Drink State Fair Beers and Ciders

Mini Donut Beer from Lift Bridge Brewing Company.

The State Fair is known for its list of specialty beers and beverages, and they have a list of breweries, cideries and orchards serving up popular drinks usually only found at the State Fair, including the Mini Donut Beer from Lift Bridge Brewing Company in Stillwater.

All brewers will serve through Labor Day.

Great Global Get-Together Happening in Minneapolis

The Instagram-worthy Pina Colada served in a Pineapple is still on the menu at Manny’s Tortas. Photo courtesy Midtown Global Market

The Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis is the permanent home for many State Fair vendors, so it’s fitting that the Market will host the Great Global Get-Together Thursday, August 27 through Sunday, September 6. Here’s a taste of who you’ll find:

  • Andy’s Garage (the sister to Andy’s Grill, the spot at the Fair where staff perform “Grease Lightning” every hour)
  • Hot Indian Foods (get the Kentikka Fried Chicken!)
  • Manny’s Tortas (a Food Building staple where you can get a pina colada served in a pineapple)
  • Produce Exchange (they serve some of the best peaches you’ll ever have)
The Produce Exchange serves some of the best peaches you’ll ever have. You can get them grilled. I prefer one with cream. Photo courtesy Midtown Global Market

Overall, a dozen restaurants are participating. You’ll also find State Fair merchandise vendors who call Midtown Global Market home. Here’s a full list of who you’ll find.

The Great Global Get-Together is free to attend. As the Midtown Global Market is indoors, masks are required.

A Minnesota FARE in Roseville

Courtesy MSF
Nordic Waffles took the State Fair by storm in 2018 and 2019. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

At POTLUCK inside Rosedale Center, you will find Nordic Waffles, a State Fair vendor that really took off when they opened in the Fair’s West End Market in 2018.

Between August 27 and September 7, you can stop by the food hall for Minnesota FARE, a 12 day celebration of the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Nordic Waffles will serve up a Strawberr-EO Surprise, an iconic strawberry picnic dessert with a double-stuffed cookie surprise in a waffle for $7.99. You can also try The Sassy Waffletarian, a plant-based sausage, topped with sautéed peppers and onions, finished with a slight kick of chef’s secret salsa for $8.99.

All seven of POTLUCK’s food vendors will have State Fair fare on their menus during Minnesota FARE.

It wouldn’t be a mock State Fair without freebies! The first 100 people who attend POTLUCK on August 27, 28 and 29 receive a Midway Social Distance Stick. Those attending on Labor Day receive a drawstring bag.

Pop-Up Experience of a State Fair Favorite

From August 31-September 7, you will be able to enjoy favorites from The Blue Barn, located at the Fairground’s West End Market, at restaurants around the Twin Cities.

The menu:

  • Meatloaf on-a-stick
  • Nashville Hot Chicken on-a-stick
  • Chicken in a Waffle Cone
  • Pop Rocks French Toast
  • Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz
  • Blueberry Basil Lemonade

The menu items are available for dine-in or carry out at the following restaurants:

{DEADLINE PASSED} Church Dining Hall Still Serving Up Favorites

Run by the Hamline United Methodist Church in Saint Paul, the Hamline Church Dining Hall has served food on the Fairgrounds since 1897. It’s one of only two church dining halls left at the Fair.

Through August 21, you are able to pre-order some of their favorites, including their Hamline Hamloaf ($10/pound), State Fair Swedish Meatballs (12 for $10), and Bread Oven Loaf ($5).

You can place your order online by clicking this link. Pickup is Sunday, August 30.

Desserts from Food Building Vendor Available at Cub

During the State Fair, Sara’s Tipsy Pies, which is usually found in the Food Building, will be found in the bakery section at Cub. Photo courtesy Stephany Wieland  EyeSpy Photography

I recently chatted with Sara Hayden, owner of Sara’s Tipsy Pies. At her booth in the Fair’s Food Building, you’ll find sweet and savory hand pies mixed with alcohol, including 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Finnegans beer, and Chateau St. Croix wine.

Sara is excited that her pies are available in the freezer section at all Cub grocery stores, along with Lunds and Byerlys. Starting August 23, they will also be available fresh baked in the bakery section at Cub stores. Click here for a store locator.

At Sara’s store in Stillwater, you’ll be able to try the flavors which were meant to make their debut at the 2020 State Fair, Cheery Cherry and Spicey Reuben, for $5 each.

Also keep your eye out for a collaboration between Sara’s Tipsy Pies and Sweet Science Ice Cream. Word is you’ll soon be able to enjoy a Tipsy Pie ice cream using Sara’s cherry pie.

Other Fair Foods at the Grocery Store

Digitized with Negative Lab Pro
Sweet Martha has launched a line of t-shirts, hoodies, hats and even baby onesies with her iconic logo. Photo courtesy Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

Sweet Martha’s cookie dough is available in the freezer section of grocery stores around the Midwest, including Cub, Target and Hy-Vee. Click here to find a store near you.

In August, Sweet Martha launched an online shop, where you can order t-shirts, hoodies and hats with the iconic logo.

Johnny Pops, quality popsicles invented by Minnesotans, are also available in the freezer section at many grocery stores.

Man Behind RC’s BBQ Opens Pop Up in Hamel

In 2017, Charlie Torgeson from RC’s BBQ introduced the world to a Double Dose of Pork Belly. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

Charlie Torgeson is the pitmaster of RC’s BBQ, which took over the Famous Dave’s booth at the State Fair a few years back. In 2019, Charlie introduced a Jamm’in Brisket Grilled Cheese, and The Hot Hen, which included BBQ chips with pulled buffalo chicken, bleu cheese fondue and more. In 2017, he served us a Double Dose of Pork Belly, which got my thumbs up.

I reached out to Charlie, and he is opening Charlie T’s Smokehouse & BBQ Trailer in the parking lot of In Kahoots in Hamel, which is just west of Plymouth. The menu won’t mirror what you can get at RC’s BBQ, but you’ll get the same rubs and sauces. Featured menu items include Buttery Pork Belly, Salt and Pepper Crusted Beef Short Rib and Cherry Smoked Chicken Wings.

Charlie T’s Smokehouse & BBQ Trailer is expecting a soft open the week of August 16. To get official news, follow @charlietssmokehouse on Instagram.

{COMPLETE} Deep-Fried Pie Available August 28 through 30

minneapple pie
Deep-fried pie will be served up in Maplewood August 28-30.

One of my favorite State Fair foods is the deep-fried apple pie from Minneapple Pie. The brother-sister duo of George and Joanne are incredibly kind people, too. Their sweets are definitely sharable, so grab a friend and head to the Cub Foods parking lot in Maplewood (2390 White Bear Avenue) August 28, 29 or 30 between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm to get a slice of their deep-fried goodness.

Fair Food Finder

It’s not run by the State Fair, but the Fair Food Finder Facebook group is mighty popular, with over 174,000 members. You’ll find postings of where you’ll find Fair food, which includes a vendor map. The Finder is inclusive to all Fair-inspired food vendors, not just those you would find at the State Fair.

State Fair To Go Kits

Not sanctioned by the State Fair, but a company is selling kits filled with State Fair inspired foods that you can make at home, including cheese curds, mini donuts, fries and Sweet Martha’s cookies. Each kit is $59.95 and will be shipped starting August 17.


{COMPLETE} Watch Princess Kay’s Likeness Carved Out of Butter

You can watch Princess Kay butter carving virtually in 2020. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair.

Princess Kay of the Milky Way represents dairy farmers in Minnesota, and there will still be a 2020 princess. A coronation took place on August 12.

From Thursday, August 13 through Sunday, August 22, candidates will be on the Fairgrounds to get their likeness carved out of a 90 pound block of butter. And you’ll be able to watch via a live stream on the Princess Kay Facebook page.

Linda Christensen, the artist who has carved the candidates for 49 years, will not be sculpting this year due to risks associated with the pandemic. She will be a part of the festivities virtually. Christensen is planning to return to the Fairgrounds in 2021 for her 50th and final year as the sculptor.

Minnesota sculptor Gerry Kulzer, an artist and teacher from Litchfield, has been an apprentice of Christensen’s for the last two years and will serve as this year’s artist. Kulzer will take over as the sculptor after Christensen’s retirement following the 2021 Fair. Learn more.


State Fair Marketplace

If there’s a Grandstand vendor that you love to visit every year, chances are good they will be on a virtual marketplace, run by the State Fair. It’s home to nearly 250 businesses and is a great way for you to shop Minnesota.

Ten percent of sales from Adam Turman’s Great Minnesota All-In-This-Together collection will be donated to the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. Artwork courtesy Adam Turman

Adam Turman is one of those vendors. Ten percent of proceeds from his “Great Minnesota All-In-This Together” collection will be donated to Minnesota State Fair Foundation, the organization responsible for upkeep of the Fairgrounds and its buildings.

Buy the Hip Accessory for 2020: a State Fair Mask

State Fair Masks
The State Fair is selling face masks showcasing their mascots. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

The State Fair has an official online store that features t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and more. Typically, you can shop for Fair merchandise at Visitors Plaza on the Fairgrounds.

To be honest, official Fair merchandise available to public is not the most current and trendy looking stuff. However, designers did a good job creating face masks. You can get a face covering featuring Fairchild, one of the two mascots for the Fair, for $12. They’re also selling a three-pack of more simplistic masks for $20. Face coverings are available in adult and youth sizes.


Fine Arts Exhibition

There still is an in-person event on the Fairgrounds in 2020. The Fine Arts Exhibition of Minnesota will showcase art selected as winners through an online juried competition. From August 27 through September 7, you are able to view the winners in the Fine Arts Building on the Fairgrounds. Tickets are $10 per person and you must select a time slot online.

You will also be able to view the exhibit online via the State Fair’s website and social media channels.

Fine Arts Exhibition of Minnesota

  • Thursday, August 27 – Sunday, September 6: 3:00-4:30 pm, 4:30-6:00 pm, 6:00-7:30 pm
  • Monday, September 7: 10:00-11:30 am, 11:30 am-1:00 pm, 1:00-2:30 pm
  • $10 per person, proceeds benefit the Minnesota State Fair Foundation
  • Fine Arts Building, State Fairgrounds
  • Free parking
  • Masks are required (and are not provided, so bring your own)
  • Purchase tickets here


{COMPLETE} State Fair Cookie Decorating Competition

baked cookies
Minnesota State Fair Cookie Decorating Showcase. Photo by Nikolett Emmert on Pexels.com.

Need something to do while you’re cooped up at home? Bake some cookies! The State Fair is hosting a Cookie Decorating Competition, with the winner receiving tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. To enter, email cookiedecorating2020@mnstatefair.org with your name, city of residence, and one photo of your decorated cookie(s). The deadline to enter is Thursday, August 27 at 4:30 pm. The contest is open only to Minnesota residents. Learn more here.

{COMPLETE} Crop Art Competition

The popular Crop Art competition lives on in 2020.

The State Fair’s popular Crop Art competition is still going on in 2020! Until 4:30 pm on Thursday, August 27, you are able to create artwork made of seed in one of two categories (those who have placed four or more times before and then the rest of us). No ribbons are awarded, but tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair will be awarded to one person from each category. To enter, email cropart2020@mnstatefair.org with one picture of your artwork, your name, city of residence, and what class you’re entering. More information can be found here.

NOTE: The State Fair created “Crop Art To Go” kits, allowing you to make your own Crop Art creation at home. Those are sold out.

{COMPLETE} Make a “Quilt-on-a-Stick”

The State Fair is also hosting its annual Quilt-on-a-Stick contest. You will want to create a quilt, using any method, that is 8″ x 9″ and fits the theme, “Fishing in Minnesota: The One that Got Away”.

To submit your quilt, you will want to take photos of the front and back of your quilt, along with two other detail photos, and email them to quiltonastick2020@mnstatefair.org. Make sure to include your name and city in the email. The deadline to enter is Thursday, August 27 at 4:30 pm.

No ribbons or premiums will be awarded, but the top five quilts will be featured on the State Fair’s social media channels.

Student Artwork and Photography Competition

Students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in Minnesota are eligible to submit artwork and photography in a virtual competition. State Fair staff will pick winners from each class and grade to feature on social media. No ribbons will be awarded. To learn about the various classes students can enter, click here.

{COMPLETE} Dress Up Your Pet to Win 2021 State Fair Admission Tickets

llama costume
Llama, you better LEGO my EGGO! Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

The Llama Costume Contest is a hidden gem at the State Fair. On one night, you’ll see students showcase very creative costumes with their Llamas in an arena.

In spirit of the Llama Costume Contest, Fair officials invite you to take a photo of you and your pet in complimentary costumes for your chance to win 2021 State Fair admission tickets. Llama not required. The deadline to enter is Friday, August 28. Learn more here.

Other Ways to Show your Love

Purchase a State Fair Party-in-a-Box

Party in a Box
$40 gets you an official Minnesota State Fair Party-in-a-Box with branded plates and cups, a ribbon, party game, and more. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair

The State Fair has a limited number “Party-in-a-Box” available to purchase on their merchandise website. The idea is that the kit would help you throw a State Fair themed party at home. The catch is that you have to provide the food. For $40, you receive State Fair branded plates and cups, a ribbon, a party game and more.

Become a “Friend of the Fair”

The Minnesota State Fair does not receive funding from the State of Minnesota. Instead, it runs off of revenue from the Fair (ticket sales, vendor fees) and fundraising from the State Fair Foundation.

Now is a great time to become a Friend of the Fair. Starting with a $50 donation, you’ll receive two tickets to the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. And a majority of your gift is tax-deductible. You’re going to buy tickets anyway, so you might as well buy them as a donation!

Adopt a Bench or Picnic Table on the Fairgrounds

Adopt a bench or picnic table that lives on the Fairgrounds. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair.

The State Fair Foundation also allows you to purchase a brick, bench or picnic table that will live on the Fairgrounds during the Great Minnesota Get Together. Bricks are $250, benches are $2500 and picnic tables are $5000. Learn more.

{COMPLETE} State Fair Recyclable Cups for Sale

Recyclable State Fair cups for sale for use at home!

In July, the Fair sold sleeves of their iconic recyclable cups that you could use for your own use at home.

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