4 changes at this year's State Fair that you need to know about

Crowds fill up Judson Avenue
The State Fair opens this Thursday. Here are four big changes you may love or hate this year.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Nothing ever stays the same, not even the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

The State Fair opens for its annual 12-day run Thursday. Here are four big changes you may love or hate this year.

1) A later pickup for some express buses

A driver shortage means you may be getting to the fair later than usual. Service from some Twin Cities express bus locations will begin at 9 a.m. on weekdays, an hour later than usual.

Service at the Parade Stadium/Dunwoody College of Technology won't begin until noon on weekdays.

"We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to serve our daily riders who depend on us every day to get to work, to get to school," said Metro Transit spokesperson Howie Padilla.

He said people who need to get to the fair earlier still have regular transit options, including the Green Line light rail and the A Line buses that serve Snelling Avenue.

Daily service every 15 minutes:

• Blaine: 95th Avenue Park & Ride, 3249 95th Ave. NE

• Brooklyn Park: Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, 7000 63rd Ave. N.

• Minnetonka: Interstate 394 and County Road 73 Park & Ride, southwest corner of I-394 and County Road 73

• Minneapolis: Parade Stadium/Dunwoody College of Technology, I-394 and Dunwoody Boulevard. Service begins at noon on weekdays.

• Bloomington: 82nd Street and 24th Avenue South, across from the Mall of America east parking ramp

Daily service every 30 minutes:

• Fridley: Fridley Station, 61st Avenue and Main Street Northeast

• West St. Paul: Signal Hills Shopping Center, South Robert Street and Butler Avenue

• Cottage Grove: Cottage Grove Park & Ride, along U.S. Highway 61 on West Point Douglas Road between 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue

• Maplewood: Maplewood Mall Transit Center, 1793 Beam Avenue (board on Southlawn Drive)

Weekends and Labor Day only, service every 15 minutes:

• Richfield: Knox Avenue Park & Ride at Best Buy, 7701 Knox Ave.

Weekends and Labor Day only, service every 30 minutes:

• Maple Grove: Maple Grove Transit Station, Interstate 94 and Hemlock Lane

• Oakdale: Marcus Oakdale Cinema, 5677 Hadley Ave. N.

• Newport: Newport Transit Station, 250 Red Rock Crossing

Click here for additional express service schedules from the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and SouthWest Transit. Click here for a park and ride map around the Twin Cities, offering service from 8 a.m. to midnight.

2) A big makeover for the north end

Looking for the Pet Center? It moved. Ditto for the Giant Sing Along.

That's because the fair's north end is debuting a major revamp this year in an effort to draw more traffic to that part of the fairgrounds.

The building that used to house the Pet Center has been repurposed as a new restaurant and beer destination. The Hangar will also feature live entertainment.

Meanwhile, the pet attractions have moved to a new open-air pavilion nearby.

But maybe the best news out of the makeover is that there's a giant new restroom building on Murphy Avenue between Underwood and Cooper streets, featuring 54 toilets, 22 urinals and 18 family restrooms.

A fairgoer holds a full bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies.
A fairgoer holds a full bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies at the 2017 fair. Sweet Martha's has added a third location to the north end of the fairgrounds.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2017

Cookie lovers, rejoice! The popular State Fair staple has added a third location. This one is on Underwood Street between Murphy and Lee avenues on the north end of the fairgrounds, across from the new location of the Giant Sing Along.

Speaking of cookies...

4) See how your favorite fair food is made

A Pronto Pup at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair
Pronto Pups headquarters is offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of the famous corn dogs.
Evan Frost | MPR News

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at how some of your favorite fair food is made this year.

Sweet Martha's new location features a cookie-shaped window allowing fans to see how just those gooey, chocolatey confections are made by the thousands. A video outside the booth will also show the full production process.

But that's not all — Pronto Pups HQ is also giving fans a look at how the corn dogs are speared, battered and fried.

Peek through the window on the south side of the new building on Underwood Street between Dan Patch and Carnes avenues for glimpse at the making of the quintessential food on a stick.

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.

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