Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fair

Each year, Labor Day marks the end of the Minnesota State Fair.

Most Twin Citians have long since lost their ties to Minnesota’s agricultural roots. But for 10 days in late summer, the State Fair lets us remember that vanishing history.

Of course, that’s just one of the reasons why more than 1.5 million people come to the Fair every year.

A lot of us come for the exotic foods—most of which are either fried or served on a stick. (I can’t vouch for the fried fruit, but the fried pickles weren’t half bad.)

Others come to watch the kids compete for a 4-H program ribbon, like these teens who were showing their ewes.

But for me the highlight was watching the young riders prepare for their equestrian grand finale. I loved the quiet meditation of this rodeo queen as she groomed her mount …

… and the tense anticipation of a young cowboy, as he waited his turn in the arena …

… and the camaraderie of the riders who were just hanging around and passing the time.

Then I joined my friend Naomi for a visit to the poultry barn. She’s a bit of a chicken connoisseuse, so I learned about the characteristics of several breeds. It was hard to believe that some of these birds were the same species.

I felt a little stupid about photographing the chickens, until I realized I wasn’t alone.

But as interesting as the poultry may have been, after a while the endless rows of cages (and the accompanying noise) became a little overwhelming.

So Naomi and I retreated to the goat building. Next to the horses, the goats are my favorite: They’re as curious and interactive as dogs—but with wild, freaky eyes and perpetual smiles.

I got a laugh out of this little guy, who was tired out from a long morning of greeting visitors …

… and his neighbors, who were very excited to get some fresh hay.

Naomi and I also strolled through the cattle barn. I loved the smell of the hay, the morning’s golden light, and the sight of families working together to care for their cows.

Along the way, we also stopped in the swine barn, but only a few pigs remained—most of them for sale. As they looked up at me expectantly, I couldn’t help but wonder what future awaited them.

Naomi’s and my next stop was the Last Chance Forever falconry show. Although I spot birds of prey around the Twin Cities almost every day, it’s an entirely different experience to see them up close.

After a brief tour of the agriculture building, Naomi and I parted ways. I stopped into the Coliseum for a few minutes to watch the kids’ equestrian pageant.

Then I made an impulsive decision to hop on the Skychairs that run the length of the fairgrounds. Alas, the view from the ground was far more alluring than that from above.

After five hours I was dog-tired, but I’d barely scratched the surface. Oh, well … there’s always 2012. Until then, I join the other State Fair lovers in saying farewell the The Great Minnesota Get-Together for another year.


  1. What an entertaining essay on the state fair. It’s nice to see that people still hold on to their rural roots, even in a big city. So many things to comment on, like: the size of those sheep! We have ponies smaller than those giants! And the hilarious chicken who looks like it’s been in a fight with a pillow. And the devil-rooster. And the shot of the goats’ backsides. And that adorable, sad little piglet… Thanks for sharing it all with us. 🙂

    • Ha, ha! I love your description of the chicken who looks like he’s tussled with a pillow! You have such a wry wit, and such a way with words, db! 🙂

      The goat backsides were a definite highlight. But by far the most impressive sight was a magnificent Friesian stallion. Too bad none of my shot-on-the-fly photos of him were worth posting. Oh, well. As I say every year: There’s always next year!

  2. What a wonderful set of documentary photographs. Almost like being there (without the inevitable fragrances of food and animals I suspect). Some of the shots would stand tall even without the context. I sense your affection for the Fair in every one of them.Bravo !!!!!

    We have a similar event here in Sydney each year called the Royal Easter Show but I’ve only been twice in over 40 years. Maybe I should go next year.

    • Believe me when I say you’re not missing anything in the “fragrances” department, Xpat! One can smell the barns from blocks away — though I think that’s part of the fun. And please, yes, please do go to the Royal Easter Show next year! And take lots of photos, and share them with me and your other eager readers! It’s always fascinating to read about similar events in other countries. It’s a reminder that, although our cultures may differ, humans seem to have an innate need for ceremonies and festivals.

    • The fried pickles were *delicious.* They combined a crunchy, slightly-sweet exterior with the squishy, salty goodness of a pickle interior. And you know what I found out yesterday, by total coincidence? Fried pickles are actually a common food in the South. Good thing I live in Minnesota, I guess, or I’d probably be gnawing on those things 24/7. BTW: Glad you liked the bamf chicken. I bet he’d taste pretty good fried, too! 🙂

  3. I loved the pictures and description of the fair, but my favourite picture of all is the blue sky with the contrast of the coloured skychairs. 😀
    Thanks for sharing an obviously brilliant day.

    • I agree with you, Hallysann: Doesn’t that look like heaven — such a carefree moment under a bright blue sky? *Sigh.*

    • Thank YOU for coming along! On this cold, dark winter day I am already daydreaming about this festival, with its strange foods and its crowds and its heat. 🙂

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