The newly renovated Swine Barn will be among the most visible changes at this year’s Minnesota State Fair, set for Thursday, Aug. 24 through Labor Day, Sept. 4.
“A lot of the needs have changed over the years. This is our first step in kind of updating and upgrading the building to fit today’s needs,” said Mark Goodrich, the state fair’s deputy general manager.
The Great Minnesota Get-Together is one of the biggest expositions in the world, drawing 1.9 million visitors annually.
Goodrich, who heads up the fair’s livestock exhibits, raises Angus beef cattle near Emerald in St. Croix County. He said changes to the 81-year-old Swine Barn are mostly about convenience in an effort to make the facility more exhibitor-friendly.
“The barn wasn’t as functional as it could be,” he said.
In the first phase of work in the barn, animal wash racks were moved outside, at least tripling wash rack capacity and placing this area beyond the barn’s most heavily traveled areas, he said.
An annex on the barn’s west side has been removed, allowing windows on that side to now be opened. Two large garage doors also were installed to improve ventilation.
“This will be a tremendous change in air movement and air quality,” Goodrich said.
With the wash racks moved outside, more pens will fit into the barn, he said, and some stalls are getting upgrades.
Goodrich said he hopes this first phase of work on the barn will mark “the beginning of many phases” of improvements, “but in the fair industry, it’s one year at a time.”
The Swine Barn renovation is being funded by various organizations through the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.
Also this year, the Swine Barn has been added to the fair’s two-mile History Walking Tour, a self-guided exploration of the fairground’s most historically significant places.
Completed in 1936, the Swine Barn was converted in World War II, along with the rest of the livestock complex, into a military aircraft propeller plant.
Also new to this year’s tour is the 5,200-seat Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum, which opened in 1951. The Coliseum features two intricately carved reliefs on the north side that depict the state motto of “L’Etoile du Nord,” or “The Star of the North.”
Tour brochures can be picked up at the History and Heritage Center or from any tour stop on the fairground. To listen to the tour from anywhere, call 877-411-4123.
The artistic side of equine
Horse lovers will want to check out the new “An Evening with Equine,” set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, in the Coliseum. This free 2½-hour event will highlight the grace, gentleness, power, precision and breadth of various forms of equine artistry.
Most horse events at the fair have been competitive in nature, but “An Evening with Equine” will showcase the industry’s less competitive side, Goodrich said.
“We thought we’d do something different for one night and kind of bridge a bunch of different disciplines ,,, with a variety of horses and things horses can do,” he said.
The Northern Lake Vaulters will display equestrian vaulting, a combination of dance and gymnastics done on the back of a moving horse. We Can Ride will demonstrate how therapeutic riding, hippotherapy and equine-assisted learning can impact people with disabilities or special needs.
The Windy Ridge Riders Drill Team will perform a precision drill exercise calling for teamwork, timing, steady spacing, speed control and horsemanship. Goodrich likens this to square-dancing with horses. The Twin City Polo Club also will put on a demonstration.
Another new agricultural attraction this year is the Dress-A-Sheep Contest, scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, in the Sheep Barn.
Teams of up to four people, dressed in costumes, will have 10 minutes to outfit their woolly comrade in a clever costume. Teams will parade around the show ring with hopes of winning over judges and the audience.
New activities in the Agriculture Horticulture Building will include “Ask the Cider Maker” with experts from the Minnesota Cider Guild, a Beekeeper’s Corner offering 15-minute mini-classes on beekeeping topics starting at 3 p.m. daily and hands-on ag literacy presented by Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom. Make-and-take projects will be livestock animal ear tags, living necklaces and pollinator feeders.
Another new attraction this year will be The Great Minnesota Knit-Together. The state’s biggest yarn bomb — a form of street art featuring crocheting, knitting and other crafted yarn creations — will blanket topiaries on the Grandstand Ramp.
Items will be provided by Knitteapolis, Midwest Machine Knitters’ Collaborative, Minnesota Knitters’ Guild, Crochet Twin Cities and Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, along with crafters from throughout Minnesota and elsewhere.
No one should leave the fair hungry, with 31 new food offerings. A few of them include:
• Cheesy Nacho Corn on the Cob (roasted corn on the cob lightly coated with crushed Doritos corn chips and nacho cheese).
• Cranberry Wild Rice Meatballs (Swedish-style meatballs with cranberries and wild rice blend covered with lingonberry sauce).
• Double Dose of Pork Belly (100 percent ground pork belly burger topped with crisp smoked pork belly, pepper jack cheese, coleslaw and pickled onions and served on a toasted bun).
• Brown Ale and Onion-Gouda Tipsy Pie (onions caramelized in Lift Bridge Brewery’s Chestnut Hill Brown Ale with smoked Gouda cheese, baked in a pie crust, topped with an onion sugar and drizzled with a sweet beer glaze).
• Maple Cream Nitro Cold Press Coffee (locally sourced heavy cream and maple syrup in a cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen).
Miller’s Flavored Cheese Curds will replace longtime cheese curd vendor Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds, which had been at the fair for more than 40 years. Tom Mueller, son of Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds co-owners Dick and Donna Mueller, this spring shut down his #SaveTheCurds social media campaign to try to keep open the state fair stand that his parents and their business partners founded in 1975.
The fair had been in search of a new vendor after Mueller’s father announced the family’s retirement with no plans for a successor. Fair officials have said the replacement process already was in motion by the time other family members expressed interest.
Miller’s will serve three flavored varieties — ranch, garlic and jalapeño — next to the Giant Slide.
Almost 500 foods are available at 300 different concessions locations throughout the grounds.
If you go
What: Minnesota State Fair.
When: Aug. 24-Labor Day, Sept. 4.
Where: Minnesota State Fairground, Falcon Heights, Minn.
Admission: $14 for adults (ages 13-64), $12 for seniors (65 and up), $12 for kids (ages 5-12) and free for children under 5.
Information: http://www.mnstatefair.org or 651-288-4400.