An introvert’s guide to the State Fair

In spite of my loathe/hate relationship with the Minnesota State Fair, last Saturday Esteban and I fulfilled our legal obligation as residents of our fair state and attended the annual event.

There are three things you need to know about this 320-acre cornucopia of farm animals, crop art, and questionable foods:
1. it’s smelly,
2. it’s loud, and
3. it’s crowded.

In other words, it’s basically an introvert’s nightmare. So how do I cope? Here’s my plan of attack, in three easy steps.

Step 1 • Plan ahead

Before I go, I study the new food selections for that year. (Pork. BE INSPIRED.)

State Fair 1040370 BLOG

This year featured not one but TWO Spam® dishes — including Spam “sushi.” We also had some multicultural options, like the extremely authentic and very traditional Italian Taco.


But the ad that most caught my eye was the last one: “New Vendors. New Vendors. Two brand-new vendors located at locations throughout the fairgrounds.” Could you please be less specific, and more redundant? Thank you.

Anyway. After perusing these dubious delicacies, I note their locations on my map — so I can actively avoid them.


Step 2 • Go early, and leave early

There’s no way around it: The Minnesota State Fair is going to be crowded. (In 2016 it broke its attendance record with 1,943,719 visitors over 10 days.)

State Fair 1040413 BLOG


But over the years I’ve noticed that some elements of the crowd are more obnoxious — like, say, screaming children and drunks — so I’ve developed strategies to minimize my exposure.

Careful observation reveals that most of the families with small children arrive at the Fair after about 10 a.m. (My working theory is that this is because it’s physically impossible to dress a small child before he or she wants to be dressed.)

These small children are adorable when they first arrive, of course, because there’s so much interesting stuff to eat (see Exhibit A — New Foods for 2016) and so much to see. Why, just look at these two tots dueling with their popsicles!

State Fair 1040390 blog

The novelty wears off quickly, though, and by 2 p.m. these once-happy children are emitting howls of displeasure so loud they could deafen a coyote. Not coincidentally, this is also when many of the adults show the first signs of inebriation.

You can avoid all of this by arriving at the Fair at 7 a.m. and then cheerfully leaving at noon, before the smiles turn to snarls. Sure, you may miss out on a couple of entertaining arrests — but you can always catch the highlight reel on the evening news.

Step 3 • Take shelter

If in spite of following Steps 1 and 2 you’re still overwhelmed, head for the relative safety of a barn. (Important comfort tip: Not recommended with open-toed shoes, unless you’re up for a poo-dicure.)

Inside the barns you’ll find a haven for introverts, many of whom will also be hiding behind cameras.

State Fair chicken photogs 1180157 CL BLOG.jpg

And if you’re lucky you’ll get to watch a farrier demonstration …


… catch a few zzz’s with a cow …

State Fair 1040359 BLOG

… or chat with the local cowboys and cowgirls.

State Fair 1290954 BLOG

State Fair Wrangler 1300019 CX CL BLOG

State Fair cowgirl 1290922 BLOG

State Fair horses 1180395 BLOG

State Fair rider 1300040 BLOG

As a former horsewoman, this is my favorite part — even if that horse on the left, below, seems to disapprove of my photography.

State Fair 1290963 BLOG

When Esteban and I were there they were also judging cattle in the arena. We got a huge kick out of the judge’s explanations of why he had chosen a particular heifer.

State Fair 1040367 BLOG

But as fun as it was to reconnect with Minnesota’s agrarian roots, I was relieved when it came time to leave and the crowd thinned as we walked toward the exit.

It’s been grand, Minnesota State Fair.



  1. Lovely piece! This year Inez, some of our kids and I spent time in the International Bazar section and had a lot of fun listening to live music (me), shopping around (Inez) and tasting questionable food (paraphrasing you). I was particularly glad to see people of all ages dancing to the tunes of a New Orleans band first and later to an African group. I would definitely recommend this to an introvert.

    • The International Bazaar really is great that way, isn’t it, Alberto? And it’s always packed! As you say, “definitely recommended for an introvert.” HA HA. (Gracias por la ENORME sonrisa que me has dado con tu comentario.)

  2. A most excellent guide. If I ever go to my state’s fair, the antique tractors and steam engines and the fair food are the only draws. My method for fair avoidance was to marry a girl who grew up across the street from the State Fairgrounds, which seems to have removed from her all desire to ever go there again. We have gone once in our 26 year marriage.

    • I very much like the J P Cavanaugh Fair Avoidance Method! The fact that you’ve gotten your bride to the fair even once during your 26-year union is a wonderful testament to her devotion to you.

  3. Nice blog, H. In days of yore, we loved to go early and have breakfast at one of the church kitchens—alas most of them are gone now. When I reached my limits, I’d go to the domestic crafts building and hide behind the quilts.

    • Isn’t is sad that only a couple of those church kitchens still exist, Jarrett? Fortunately, there are still plenty of quilts to be had. (HA HA. You crack me up.) Thank you so much for stopping by — it made my day to see your name pop up in the comments.

  4. I’d have gone for the sheep dog 🙂

    My ex took my daughter to the Ohio State Fair a few years ago. It was, for a germophobic mother and daughter, not a great deal. Worse was when they were in the animal barn….and a llama sneezed on my daughter. Remember the early reference to germaphobic? NOT a good day. I think they ended up throwing out the shirt and pants as unsalveagable. LOL!!

    • A llama sneezed on your daughter??! Gosh. I think that would pay *anyone* over the edge, Jeff. I’m glad that (other than discarding her clothing) she seems to have survived the incident, though. LOL!

  5. Good advice; funny post. I can’t attend my State Fair in Wisconsin because I’d eat the food and die of regret before the food could kill me. Nearly everything is deep-fried and served on a stick. Sometimes it’s wrapped in bacon for good measure. A few years back we had deep-fried butter. Really. Like a fifth of a stick of butter encased in a wonton, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I just know I would have loved it . . .

    • I’m with you: I’d probably die of regret long before the heart attack got me. And thank God our State Fairs come around only once a year, right? I don’t know if I’d be able to resist bacon-wrapped, deep-fried butter on a stick if it were available year-round, right down the street from me. 😀 Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • I do suspect there are a lot of people who can relate, given how crowded the “quiet” places at the Fair are becoming. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by, Tess!

    • I’m so glad that came through in the photos, Cindy. It’s exactly how I felt witnessing some of these scenes. Thank you!

  6. I love lighthearted sarcasm in the morning, hahaha you made me laugh. We never attend these crowded affairs either for many of the same reasons you so comically referred to. As a vegetarian, the food items just make my stomach turn and the smells at these affairs make my head spin. Pure misery! The photo’s at the barn are really great.

    • Yay! One more thing we have in common. (Though if you ever do come to Minnesota during the Fair … and if we ever do decide to brave it … I’ve scouted out lots of good vegetarian treats. Not great, mind you. But then again, even Belgian chocolate isn’t great when you’re eating it as you tromp through a barn.)

  7. So lovely to get a tour of your State Fair! Our nearest such event is The National Ploughing Championships, an annual agricultural fair which got record attendance in 2017 of almost 300,000 over 3 days despite some of the worst weather in years!

    • 100,000 people per day at the National Ploughing Championships is quite a huge crowd, actually! It sounds like an interesting event too — it’s always fascinating to see how fairs and festivals differ around the world, but also how much they have in common. Anyway. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and thank you so much for stopping by!

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s