The Great Minnesota Get-Together will officially open Aug. 24th through Labor Day, as normal! Minnesotans returned to the state fair in larger numbers in 2022 after the pandemic started to wane. We should all be proud of our state fair as it's one of the largest and best operations in the country! If you have never been–make this the year!
New State Fair Director not making major changes
Renee Alexander is taking over from Jerry Hammer, who retired after 27 years in the top job as the fair's CEO. After starting her job in May she said she is not looking to change things quickly but stay the course. She feels the fair has been well run and that change will take time and be done after carefully considering each decision. Alexander has been attending the fair since 1985 and has held various roles while working for the fair. Like many, she thought the fair just turned a key and started up in August and stopped after Labor Day. It’s really a year-round position, and not run by the state but overseen by the State Agricultural Society that watches over the event that started in 1854. The fair is totally self-supporting.
Let’s start with a way to get into the Fair and save some money–seniors always love saving money- so start on a positive note! Discounted admission price for seniors at the entrance gates on both Monday, August 28th, and opening day Thursday, August 24th is $13 for seniors (65+) and you can buy the tickets at the gate. You can also purchase advance discounted tickets at participating Cub Food stores along with blue ribbon bargain books. Standard fair pricing is:
- Adults (13-64): $18
- Seniors (65+): $16
- Kids (5-12): $16
- Children (4 and under): Always Free!
So enjoy those senior or advanced prices!
Over the past several years safety has been a more significant concern at all venues including the state fair. In 2022 the State Fair had incidents near and inside the venue that caused it to shut down early for safety reasons. This year the State Fair continues to have its own police force, Police Chief, and Assistant Police Chief who are working with outside agencies to help with law enforcement. There will be a good police presence throughout the event with law enforcement joining from all over the state.
Even though cannabis has been legalized in Minnesota smoking marijuana will not be allowed at the fair in 2023.
Watch the Heat
August and early September can be some of the warmest days of the summer. Stay ahead of the heat and enjoy the beautiful trees all around. Keeping cool at the fair is commonly done with a cold drink and a cool breeze. Just outside the Skyride and Space Needle, there is a large grove of trees with lots of benches at the Leinie's Lodge Bandshell. This is a great place to listen to live music, watch people, and cool down. If you’re looking for a cool mist, you may want to head over to the Haunted House across from the Horticulture building. Cooling down here is a little dependent on the direction of the wind but when that mist hits you on a hot day it’s fantastic.
Suppose someone does get overheated and needs medical assistance. In that case, the security headquarters, located on Dan Patch Avenue and just across from the west entrance to the Skyride, serves as an emergency medical facility. They would have ice packs and personnel to assist with heat-related issues.
For additional tips or if you are particularly concerned about the heat, check out this blog on summer safety for seniors.
New Fair Food–Pickles Pickles Everywhere!
The food vendors and new choices are back in a big way as they expect a super busy 2023 State Fair. One thing you might notice is a lot of pickle-related offerings. According to Alexander, it may be because of last year’s success with the pickle pizza. It was so successful that many of the vendors came back with new pickle offerings.
How do you even write about food at the Minnesota State Fair? It’s the focal point for so many people when they attend. Just about everyone has their favorite: Sweet Martha’s Cookies; Funnel Cake; Alligator; Cheese Curds; and the list goes on. Every year the fair holds a competition for new vendors and food choices. Despite your favorites being a habit, you might want to sample a few of the new foods at the fair this year. Everything from Pickle Fries, Walleye Fritter Pops, Loaded Lobster Fries, and even Crispy Lutefisk Steam Buns just to name a few. For a more complete list check out this NPR blog on the new choices.
The Leinie Lodge Bandshell, located at the base of the Space Tower between Cooper and Cosgrove Streets, features a mix of national and local acts, and this year’s nighttime lineup includes:
- The Bacon Brothers (Aug. 24-25) 8:30 p.m.
- Naturally 7 (Aug. 26-27) 8:30 p.m.
- Drake Milligan (Aug. 28-29) 8:30 p.m.
- Nikki Lane (Aug. 30-31) 8:30 p.m.
- Celebrating Meat Loaf (Sept. 1-2) 8:30 p.m.
- Soul Asylum (Sept. 3-4) 7:30 p.m.
In the West End Market, Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater showcases local music, and this year’s bill is no exception
- Mike Hosty (Aug. 24-25) 8 p.m.
- Kiss the Tiger (Aug. 26-27) 8 p.m.
- Heatbox (Aug. 28-29) 8 p.m.
- Gully Boys (Aug. 30-31) 8 p.m.
- First Avenue Goes To The Fair (Sept. 1-2) 8 p.m.
- Petty Comes Alive! (Sept. 3-4) 8 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Both Leinies and Schells have complete daytime offerings as well. Check out this full lineup of free music at the fair.
The Grandstand is where you want to go for more of a concert environment. It’s not free but you can see some excellent stars from the past and present. Personally, I can only afford Blippy but here is a list of all the Grandstand entertainment.
Once you arrive at the fair, you can rent wheelchairs and scooters from Hometown Mobility. It’s a good idea to reserve online or call 1-712-938-2029. They charge $5 to set up rentals by phone. There are several places to pick up your rental and a 24-hour advance reservation is required. If you want to recharge your own electric scooter or wheelchair there are two options on the fairgrounds: Care & Assistance south of West End Market is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, or the south side of the Grandstand outside between the entrance doors--outlets are designated with disability signs.
There are buses and trollies inside the fairgrounds that can help you get from place to place. Check at the fair information desk for specific routes and fares.
Here is a complete guide to accessibility services at the fair including ASL support, and sensory-friendly shows.
The fair has handicapped parking on a first-come-first-served basis. The cost is the same as standard parking ($20). This gets you close to the access points for the fairgrounds on a hard surface. Parking generally surrounds the fairgrounds but click the link for the best way for you to access the fair. Last year we used a park-and-ride lot and it was fantastic. The State Fair provides a free Park & Ride lot with free wheelchair-accessible bus service exclusively for people with disabilities and their companions. The lot, open to those with disability parking certificates or disability license plates, is located south of the State Fairgrounds at Oscar Johnson Arena, 1039 De Courcy Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108.
The fair has spent a lot of money upgrading its restrooms to be accessible. So there are many more options than several years ago. State Fair maps have clearly designated handicapped bathrooms marked. Here you will find grab bars and adequate space for mobility assistance devices. Paper maps are readily available at information booths or at the entrance to the fair.
State Fair Express Bus service features free parking and a direct bus ride to the fairgrounds for a small fee from farther-out suburbs around the Twin Cities. Express Bus lots are serviced by Metro Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, and Southwest Transit.
In addition, several regular Metro Transit bus routes drop you off right at the fairgrounds. View a map of the Transit Hub at Gate #16. Visit metrotransit.org/StateFair for more information about Express Bus service, regular bus routes, and how to purchase bus tickets.
Don’t be shy about bringing seniors to the fair. This is a place for everyone where the aromas and atmosphere bring back many fond memories for all. Generally to get the most out of the day with a senior, take a slower pace, stay ahead of heat-related issues, and smile a lot!