The Minnesota State Fair opened its gates this morning for another 12-day run, and Minneapolis resident Brian Motiaytis was the first in line at the Snelling Avenue gate, eager to carry on where he left off last year.
By his own estimation, Motiaytis visited The Great Minnesota Get-Together every day it was open in 2011, for a total of more than 140 hours at the fairgrounds in all.
"You get to see different things with different people. I have friends, one wanted to see goat judging, the other wanted to see the arts building," he said. "Then, there's the requisite sitting down, watching the fair walk by you. See everything and everybody."
New attractions this year for what fair officials expect to be 1.8 million people will include bacon ice cream, a Boy Scout adventure park, and an evening laser light show. The fair is the third-largest single event in the country and the second-largest state fair.
SWINE BARN OPENS DESPITE FLU FEARS
The fair was preceded this year by some controversy, as health experts warned that a strain of influenza in pigs might be contagious for people. One epidemiologist even suggested banning the expected 900 or so pigs from the fair this year, although state health officials said that wasn't necessary.
Kathryn Loppnow's family raises pigs near Lake City, and she says she'll be showing pigs as a Future Farmers of America exhibitor later in the fair. She says pigs are safe.
"My advice is to come, see the pigs, enjoy one of the best animals at the fair, and just wash your hands when you're done and continue on with a great summer," she said. "One of the best ways that you can end your summer is here, right at the swine barn."
The state Department of Health says that kids under 5 years old, seniors and pregnant women probably ought to skip the swine barn altogether -- those are folks that are traditionally susceptible to the flu. But a lot of the kids bringing their pigs in to the barn said they aren't seeing any issues with their pigs here, or back at home.
FROM SWINE TO WINE
This year's fair will offer 40 new foods to fair-goers, more than any other in recent history, fair officials say.
The new food and drink offerings include everything from bacon ice cream to eggplant tacos, which fair-goers can wash down with the offerings at a new Minnesota beer exhibition in the Agriculture & Horticulture building, and a wine show in the building that used to house the Epiphany Church diner, one of the traditions that won't be back this year.
Other new foods include gluten-free Chicago hot dogs this year. The Sonora Grill is going to have beef tongue tacos next week, and the Holy Land Deli is offering lamb fries -- a traditional Middle Eastern dish of marinated lamb testicles. They come grilled, or deep fried.
There are also seven new rides on the Mighty Midway, a laser light show nightly at 9 p.m. for folks who don't want to stick around to the very end for the fireworks show. The fair is also bringing back sword swallowers and fire breathers for a good old fashioned sideshow revival over at the Midway.
MINNESOTA STATE FAIR: IF YOU GO
• The Minnesota State Fair is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day in Falcon Heights, but it closes an hour early on Labor Day -- the last day.
• Regular admission is $12, $10 for seniors and children, and kids under 5 years old get in free.
• For a complete calendar of events, and schedules for the Minnesota Public Radio booth at Judson and Nelson, click here.