Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A fair alternative September 4, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Photographed on August 29 in the Ace Hardware store parking lot, Faribault, Minnesota.


MINNESOTANS LOVE THEIR FAIRS. County and then state. And right about now, crowds would be converging on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights for the final days of the Great Minnesota Get Together.

But not me; I haven’t attended in nearly 40 years. And not anyone at the fair this year due to COVID-19 and the resulting cancellation of this big food/entertainment party.

While the fair features everything from crop art (gone virtual this year) to farm animals, from carnival rides to marketplaces, from politicians (especially this election year) to princesses, the food seems the draw. Anything on-a-stick. And a lot not on a stick.

To satisfy the hungry masses missing fair food, the State Fair this year offered a drive-through Food Parade at the fairgrounds for $20/vehicle plus whatever the cost for the foods ordered from 16 participating vendors. Tickets quickly sold out for the food frenzy event that continues through Labor Day weekend.

While people are waiting in their vehicles for turkey legs, mini donuts, egg rolls on-a-stick, sno cones, walleye cakes, funnel cakes, Sweet Martha’s cookies and much more, I’m content to avoid the congestion.

I know faithful fair food devotees will tell you it’s not the same…but I spotted this food stand in the parking lot of the local Ace Hardware Store on Saturday morning. Cheese curds and pronto pups vended right here in Faribault. No need to travel to the Cities or pay $20 or wait in line at the fairgrounds.

I already hear the protests. “But it’s not the fair!” And that would be accurate. No crowds pressing in. No feeling of togetherness. No endless food choices. Just a taste of the fair, right in my backyard. In hardware store and other parking lots around Minnesota. Streetside. On fairgrounds in Rice and Steele counties during special food events earlier this summer. And even in some restaurants. It may not be the same experience as the State Fair, but, hey, it’s something. Which is better than nothing during a global pandemic.

FYI: To find pop-up fair food stands in Minnesota, visit the Fair Food Finder Facebook page by clicking here.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “A fair alternative”

  1. Washe Koda Says:

    I wonder if the giant pair of overalls are still hanging on the east side of the race track / entertainment venue visible from ‘machinery hill’ ❓ 𝔾𝕠𝕤𝕙 𝕀 𝕞𝕚𝕤𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕄𝕚𝕟𝕟𝕖𝕤𝕠𝕥𝕒 𝕊𝕥𝕒𝕥𝕖 𝔽𝕒𝕚𝕣 🐿living in E. Tennessee for the past 13yrs 🎡🎢🎠 I will have a hard time finding cheese curd’s or pronto-pup corn dog’s here in the mist of the Smoky Mountain’s & the fog of the moon shiners

  2. valeriebollinger Says:

    We have bought a pronto-pup at the food stand outside Faribault, on Hwy. 60. The DJJD in Northfield is canceled too, and that is where we would get our annual taste of fair food.

  3. We’ve had the fair vendors here in Rochester too. I LOVE fair food but decided to stay away from it. Maybe next year….maybe?

  4. Susan Ready Says:

    Love your clever title for recent posting. By what i read the fair food run here in cities has been highly successful . My fair alternative, keeping me satisfied, was finding at a store in frozen foods, a bag of Sweet Martha’s Cookie dough Balls. So now I have fresh cookies baked right at home.

  5. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    Oh my, cheese curds! Now there’s a distinct blast-from-the-past memory. I really miss the really creamy, large curds.

  6. Tiny mini donuts. Yum! Many MN State Fair memories from my 4-H days in hummm…. late 1970’s….😳

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