What Minnesota celebrities eat, drink and see at the State Fair

Fairgoers walk down the street in the morning light.
Fairgoers walk down the street in the morning light at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

The 2022 Minnesota State Fair is almost here so MPR News reached out to Minnesota celebrities for their must eat, must drink and must see of the Minnesota State Fair. Here’s what they said.

Keith Marler, Fox 9 meteorologist

  • Eat: Since I'm out there almost every day, I hold pretty strong to my "take a bite and move on" mantra. With all the old favorites and new stuff I'm exposed to on a daily basis, I'd need to be rolled out of there by Labor Day every year if I finished everything I try. But, I always am a sucker for Al's Subs’ biscuits and gravy a few mornings and Bayou Bob's alligator sauté at least two or three times.

  • Drink: Several years ago I was introduced by a friend to the wonderful concept of a Fair breakfast beer so at least once during the Fair, when the morning show is done, he and I will meet up and toast the morning at the Ballpark Cafe (but only on a day I don't have to do the 11 a.m. show)

  • See: I think the "must sees" are just making the rounds visiting the tons of friends I've made at different vendors, booths and exhibits over the last 19 years. I only see most of these folks once a year, and so the Fair truly has evolved into a crazy 12-day family reunion for me.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz

  • Eat: Pork chop on a stick.

  • Drink: Not only do I love visiting the all-you-can-drink milk booth, I’ll be chipping in as a volunteer this year.

  • See: I’ll miss butter carving hall-of-famer Linda Christensen, but I can’t wait to see Gerry Kulzer take over the butter! 

Scott Jensen, GOP gubernatorial candidate

  • Eat: Tom Thumb Mini-Donuts.

  • Drink: Beer, preferably a Blue Moon.

  • See: CHS Miracle of Birth Center.

Kate DiCamillo, author

  • Eat: I love to get to the fair very, very early in the morning. I get a breakfast burrito.

  • Drink: A cup of coffee.

  • See: The animal barns. there is something utterly heavenly about being down there in the early morning. Let me quote E.B. White (“Charlotte's Web”):  "The barn was very large.  It was very old.  It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure.  It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a very peaceful smell — as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world."

Bad Bad Hats, local band

  • Eat: Sweet Martha's Cookies and an ear of roasted corn.

  • Drink: The first and most-interesting sounding beer we find. 

  • See: The giant prize-winning vegetables. 

Jana Shortal, KARE 11 journalist and anchor

  • Eat: Danielson and Daughters onion rings

  • Drink: The coldest or freshest local IPA. I’ll wander near and far on the fairgrounds to find it.

  • See: Easy — amateur talent show.

Fairborn and Fairchild, Minnesota State Fair mascots

  • Eat: We love ALL the food at the fair, but as gophers, we’re natural herbivores – so, don’t tell, but we like to get our snack fix at the crops planted near Little Farm Hands.

  • Drink: We are naturally partial to the malts from the Gopher Dairy Bar. The name says it all!

  • See: The daily parade of course! It features two of our absolute favorite mascots … US!

    Fairchild in 1998
    State Fair mascot Fairchild in 1998
    Courtesy of Minnesota State Fair Archives

Benjamin Percy, author and screenwriter

  • Eat: Eating is the reason I go to the fair. The hot chicken sandwich at Blue Barn is a favorite, but I'm also going to shove a few pronto pups (not corndogs!) and cream puffs and cheese curds and buttered cobs in my mouth. We always review the food listings in advance and hit up some of the new and gourmet offerings as well. I will definitely be wearing the stretchy pants and medicating with a Costco-sized helping of Tums.

  • Drink: It is a truth universally acknowledged that whatever day I attend the fair turns out to be the hottest of the year. Which means I'm always in the mood for a cold beer. I like the idea of being adventurous and trying some of the more experimental brews, but ... I tend to stick to my local IPAs: Surly, Summit and Mad Butcher to name a few.

  • See: My wife was a 4-H kid, so she has a long history with the fair and might be its ultimate fan. She likes to go multiple times and map out the entire day in advance. I have my favorites, like the haunted house, but I defer to her. And her ultimate site — which she regards with an almost holy reverence — is the giant slide. She even has a T-shirt. And she claims she'll be going down it until she's 100. So we always shout and whoop our way down it.

Sven Sundgaard, MPR news meteorologist

  • Eat: I love to hit the turkey stand near the DNR area. I try to be reasonably healthy and the plain hot turkey sandwich is a must for me: TONS of protein and it’s delicious! Then I feel less guilty about other things like fried pickles and mini donuts, which are also a must of mine. They’re simple, but the Tiny Tim donuts are nostalgia for me, I always got them with my late grandpa.

  • Drink: If it’s midday and hot, nothing sounds good like an ice cold Diet Coke, but we’ve become a fan of that new mini donut beer. It sounds weird, but it was great.

  • See: All of the animals. I think a lot of people forget what the fair is about. Having grown up on a hobby farm with horses and goats, I always wanted to see what everyone else’s goats and horses looked like and my favorite animal: the pigs. I always wanted a pig but my parents never got me one … I’m still bitter … but I do like to visit them.

Kelly Barnhill, author

  • Eat: The corn on the cob, or maybe Martha’s Cookies, or maybe those spicy walleye cakes I had one time at a booth I can’t remember and have been looking for ever since.

  • Drink: The bottomless cups of milk, how does it taste so much better there than at home?

  • The new babies at the Miracle of Life Center obviously, and maybe the MPR booth, just because.

    Two girls sit in the hay with their cows inside the cow barn.
    Two girls sit in the hay with their cows inside the cow barn at the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minn. August 23.
    Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

Jason Matheson, host of the Jason Show

  • Eat: Gizmo sandwich.

  • Drink: Malt or shake at the Dairy building.

  • See: The massive amount of fanny packs.

Yia Vang, chef of Union Hmong Kitchen

  • Eat: This year it's our food at the Union Hmong Kitchen booth in the International Bazaar, but I also love the smoked turkey leg from Turkey To Go. 

  • Drink: 1919 Root Beer, of course.

  • See: It's great to get up high on the Ferris wheel and see the full view of the fair and all of the people.

Angela Davis, MPR News host

  • Eat: Roasted corn on the cob, pork chop on a stick, pronto pup and Sweet Martha’s cookies

  • Drink: Root beer

  • See: Babies in strollers

Joe Schmit, KSTP sports director

  • Eat: Turkey sandwich.

  • Drink: Try out the craft beers.

  • See: It’s a great place for people watchers.

    New beer at the Minnesota State Fair
    Ed Schumacher looks over a cup of Schell's Octoberfest and blueberry beers, topped with frozen beer foam.
    Tim Nelson | MPR News

Lori and Julia, myTalk 107.1

  • Eat: Cheeseburger at the Midways men’s club ($3.50!), tied with a slice of pizza at the pizza wagon ($2!), notice a trend? We know where the good cheap eats are.

  • Drink: Beer at the Frontier Saloon.

  • See: Music, on any stage.

Jennie Clark, Minnesota Aurora assistant coach

  • Eat: The Minnesota corn dog.

  • Drink: S’mores Beer at Giggles Campfire Grill

  • See: Giant karaoke.

Leif Enger, former MPR News correspondent and local author

  • I hate to admit it, but the last time I went to the State Fair was in the early 90s when my brother Lin and I were writing mysteries together. I don’t recall what I ate, but my wife Robin says I smelled of garlic after so maybe a gyro. Sorry, I’m a bad person to ask.

Alex Goligoski, Minnesota Wild defenseman

  • Eat: I have to have the cheese curds and vanilla milkshake from the Dairy building.

  • Drink: Mini donut beer is great too, so is the dill pickle beer.

  • See: We try to get a concert every year if we can and I love doing the big yellow slide with the kids.

    A drawing of a large slide and a crowd at the State Fair
    This sketch depicts the Giant Slide and the crowds of fairgoers walking by one of the fair's oldest attractions.
    Courtesy of Amber Sausen

Alec Soth, photographer

  • Eat: Liquid nitrogen ice cream at Nitro Ice Cream.

  • Drink: Kombucha at the Produce Exchange.

  • See: The Miracle of Birth Center, always (though not while drinking kombucha). 

Chris Carr, K102 morning show host

  • Eat: The porkchop on a stick. Sweet Martha’s Cookies and the steak bites at Lulu’s.

  • Drink: The chocolate malt at Al’s Subs is delicious.

  • The K102 booth, of course! But the Miracle of Birth Center is pretty cool too.

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