IF I WAS ATTENDING the Minnesota State Fair, which opens today and runs through Labor Day, I’d try these three new foods: Pickle Pizza, Sweet Potato Poutine and Minneblueberry Pie. Those were my quick picks while scrolling through the 39 new food offerings listed on the fair website. The fair, has, after all, become seemingly food-focused.
But I’m not going to the Great Minnesota Get Together. I haven’t been there in decades. I find nothing appealing about the massive crowds, the pressing together of fair-goers, the congestion, the waiting in lines, the dealing with metro traffic. Nope. Not my thing.
Yet, many Minnesotans love the State Fair and there are many reasons to appreciate it from the Seed Art to the entertainment to all that vended food.
My youthful fair memories—I attended a few times—are of the giant slide, Machinery Hill (no longer there), an overly-crowded conservation building stocked with fish and dining at a church diner.
That brings me to the Rice County Fair, done and over for this summer, but set for July 19-23, 2023. I didn’t attend this year and haven’t for several. But I should return, check out the food stands, see what I’ve missed.
Recently, I walked through a section of the vacated fairgrounds, camera in hand, with no worries about bumping into fair-goers. My primary focus was on signage, on food service buildings, some of them aged, some new. I never made it to the animal barns.
The Rice County Fair does a good job of drawing local food vendors, many mainstays of the fair. Like the St. Luke’s booth, stationed here for nearly 80 years.
And the Cardinal Cafe which, according to the Bethlehem Academy website, has been a decades-long fair tradition serving burgers, brats, “Lunch Lady cookies,” and other refreshing treats to fair-goers. Their sign says the cafe has been here since the 1950s.
Likewise, the Rice County Pork Producers have been around for some 50 years serving pulled pork, sandwiches, pork burgers and pork chops on-a-stick.
And 4-Hers (along with their parents), I expect, have served food for decades at the 4-H Food Stand.
The gastronomical offerings far exceed what I’m showing you from my brief post-fair visit. Many locally-based concession stands are mobile, without on-site buildings like that of Farmer’s Delights. That needs to be noted here. I expect Rice County fair-goers find plenty to please their palates.
Just like the Minnesota State Fair, food rates highly in the overall county fair experience. Whether at a rural Minnesota fair or the biggest fair in the state, options abound to eat traditional—roasted corn-on-the-cob, mini-donuts, cheese curds—to that which expands our Minnesota taste buds well beyond Ole and Lena’s Tator Tot Hot Dish on-a-stick with cream of mushroom dipping sauce.
TELL ME: What’s your favorite fair food? County or State Fair, doesn’t matter, although please specify.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling