According to communications supervisor Lara Hughes, the Minnesota State Fair had plenty to sing about this year – with the large scale One Giant Sing Along event, 12 Grandstand musical performances, and 900 free musical performances, and an overall attendance of 2,046,533, an attendance record. Saturday, Sept. 1st drew an all-time single-day-attendance record with 270,426 visitors.
Helping attendees navigate the wide range of offerings and events at the fair, there was a new and free Minnesota State Fair app, the official iPhone and Android smartphone users’ guide to everything from foods, shops, booths, entertainment, and daily schedule information.
But it wasn’t just the human fair-going component that made the event a success,
Hughes notes that there were also a record number of animals at the fair this year, nearly 15,000, including 217 cute and cuddling newborns. The Miracle of Birth Center at the fair welcomed 157 piglets, 12 calves and 42 lambs and, for the first time ever, six kids – of the goat variety.
The Minnesota State Fair’s agricultural and creative competitions included popular events for livestock, horses, crafts, bee and honey products, fine arts, and farm crops, among many others. In fact, the State Fair’s Fine Arts Exhibition featured the largest juried art show in Minnesota.
But back to those musical high notes. Total Grandstand attendance was 113,937 for acts that included the Sugarland: Still The Same 2018 Tour, The Current’s Music On-A-Stick featuring Trampled By Turtles with special guests Lord Huron and Lissie, The Beach Boys with special guests John Stamos and The Righteous Brothers, Old Dominion: Happy Endings World Tour with special guests Neal McCoy and Morgan Evans – all of these major-talent events were sold out.
Additionally, almost 8,000 fans cheered on the amateur talent at the 46th Annual MSF Amateur Talent Contest Finals, sponsored by JACK’S ® Pizza.
Hughes relates that there were plenty of new additions to the fair this year, including the new demonstration-friendly Cambria Kitchen, seven new midway rides, and a new spot for food, craft beer, and entertainment, The Hangar, which also received one of the 2018 Best Awards for vendors.
Fair goers also enjoyed a new Pet Pavilion and outdoor demonstration area and an enhanced draft horse and miniature horse competition schedule.
A whopping 27 new fair foods were introduced this year, as well as 6 new food vendors. Hughes describes top new treats, including Bananas Foster French Toast, Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl, and a Moroccan Sausage Bowl. Other popular newcomers included Blueberry Rhubarb Cobbler, Triple Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake, a decadent Turducken Sausage Sanwich, Wood-Grilled Elote corn, and a spicy Firecracker Shrimp Stuffed Avocado – featuring white Gulf shrimp with lime, onion, black beans, tomato and fire roasted corn in a garlic aioli sauce stuffed into avocado halves and served open-face with flatbread. There were slider flights, Mangonada Shave Ice – mango ice with Mexican chamoy sauce, dusted with tajin chili powder — sweet Greek Cheese Puffs, as well as the zingy Smoked Soft Serve Ice Cream, too. There was even a delicious vegan and gluten-free treat: Earth Wings, made from fresh cauliflower pieces dipped in a seasoned batter, deep-fried and smothered in organic sesame barbecue sauce.
Pricing differed from pre-fair purchasing to regular admission. Pre-fair discount tickets were $11, which is $3 off the regular adult admission. An additional $1 discount was available pre-fair for seniors and children; early-purchasers could also find discounts on Midway and Kidway ride and game tickets, such as $10 off a sheet of $25 ride tickets for a price of just $15.
During the fair, regular admission was $14 for adults, $12 for seniors over 65, and $12 for kids ages 5-12. Children under 5 were free. There were special deal days too, with discounted admissions on Thrifty Thursday, and on Seniors and Kids Day, when tickets for these groups were $9; kid’s tickets were also available at this price on Labor Day. On Military Appreciation Day, active military and their families, as well as retired and veteran military and their spouses were admitted for $9 when they purchased admission at the gate with documentation of U.S. military service. Valid public library cards also netted reduced admission prices on Read & Ride Day at the fair. Hughes also noted additional discounts available through the 2018 Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, which provided 150 coupons offering savings of at least 30 percent on food, merchandise and attractions; the book itself cost $5.
Once at the fair, there were plenty of free offerings to keep attendees entertained. Nightly fireworks events were sponsored by Mazda; stages throughout the fairgrounds offered live entertainment; a parade was held at 2 p.m. daily featuring participants in a high school marching band competition; the family fair music events were another free offering.
From skateboarding to dog demonstrations, there were plenty of non-musical entertainment offerings, too. Other popular attractions included the Creative Activities Building, with its wide range of exhibitions of handicrafts, baking, and cooking demonstrations. In the Agriculture and Horticulture building, there was a Giant Pumpkin Contest, as well as floral, vegetable, and honey contests. Kids really “dug” the Great Big Sandbox attraction, as well as the Thank a Farmer Magic Show.
Midway rides were no slouch either this year, with seven new rides including the spinning thrills of Downdraft, and the Haunted Castle Dark Ride, the latter the largest traveling haunted attraction in the U.S., imported from Italy. There were new rides for the littlest attendees, too, including a Combination Carousel and a Teacup ride that rotated rather than offering wild spins.
Fair spokeswoman Danielle Dullinger says offering new attractions and foods helped create the record numbers for all these attractions, noting that a balance of the traditional with the new is what really works to draw crowds and keep them happy. The fair, which was first held in 1855, shows no signs of stopping, and every sign of continuing to grow and change with the times.