In late July I was one of the lucky few who refreshed the page enough times and/or at the right time to secure a spot in the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade. It took me two hours, but as someone who hasn't missed a late summer stop at the great Minnesota get-together, it was a small price to pay to keep that beloved 25 year streak alive.
After a few weeks of waiting, Sunday, August 23rd came around and for the third consecutive year I would make a trip to the Fairgrounds on 8/23. Two years ago I spent the night enjoying a Niall Horan concert, a year ago I got hammered and partied with the Power Trip Morning Show and this year I...sat in the back of a car and ate some awesome food.
It was a bittersweet afternoon to say the least. While I was enjoying some of my favorite Fair foods I looked around and saw all the things we were missing. From the Giant Slide to the empty Skyglider to the motionless Space Tower to the closed-up Food Building, it was all a sad reminder of what we're all missing this year.
However, it is better than nothing and it really was a lot of fun. I have some tips to help make your experience a great one!
1. Bring a garbage bag
While there are garbage cans along the route, there aren't too many opportunities to stop along the way. You don't want to be the person who holds up the line by stopping at every can and you obviously don't want your are cluttered up with trash. Bringing a trash bag will alleviate a ton of stress as you go through the parade.
2. Bring a cooler
There's no all-you-can-drink milk stand to walk to after you get your cookies, so why not bring your own milk in a cooler? Plus you can pack water, pop and other refreshments to enjoy. This is also a great option if you plan to bring home some food, such as Turkey To Go's frozen meat by the pound. Also, don't forget paper towels, napkins and other things you think you might need. It is not a bad idea to bring your own ketchup either. While it is supplied by some vendors, it is not in great quantities and those packets tend to suck so if ya got a cooler throw some ketchup in there!
3. Use the time in the queue before you enter the parade wisely
You will receive a food menu with all the items available in the order of the parade. While you won't wait too long to get into the parade route, you should have some time to go through the menu with your party and tally up what you want. There are a lot of cars trying to get through this thing, so the less time it takes for you to order the better. Also, each restaurant handles cash and credit differently and it is noted on the menu so you are able to have the proper form of payment ready.
4. Bring a large appetite and pick portion sizes wisely
You probably shouldn't eat much at all before going as you will be getting a full day's worth of food in about 90 minutes. If you're a picky eater and only getting a few things, get a normal portion of food. However, if you love everything and you put a ton of ink down on that paper, think small and try and share. You don't wanna be sick as you pull into the cookies line.
5. Enjoy your cookies somewhere else
Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar is the final stop on the parade route and while it's cool to sneak a few hot-out-of-the-oven ones right away, I recommend finding an open parking lot in the Falcon Heights area and doing a cookie tailgate, complete with milk and the ability to stretch your legs for the first time in a while. I forgot what happens if you give a mouse a cookie, but I do know if you give a driver a cookie he'll probably want some milk and if you give him milk he will probably spill all over the place and you don't want that folks.
6. Listen to State Fair Radio on iHeartRadio or 101.3-HD3
If you're with your family, State Fair Radio is perfect to listen to as you enjoy your mini donuts and cheese curds. Everything from Weird Al to Stevie Nicks to the Goo Goo Dolls can be heard on there, and it is an awesome compliment to everything going on down there.
7. Do your best to have fun amidst the chaos
There is a lot going on at once down there and it is easy to get lost in all the commotion. Try to slow things down and enjoy the ride. Help the driver enjoy it as best he or she can and thank them profusely afterwards because it is hard enough being a passenger let alone a driver. But seriously, sit back and have fun!
8. Buy a KFAN State Fair t-shirt
If there's one thing I miss the most about the Fair, it is hanging around the KFAN booth as the t-shirts wave around in the summer breeze. The good news is, those shirts are available on this thing called the internet. If you click here, you can virtually walk up to the booth, virtually tell Ryan Donaldson your shirt size, and get a real, quality KFAN t-shirt delivered to your door. It's pretty sweet, check it out!