At some point in your visit to the Minnesota State Fair, it will feel like you are always walking against the crowd. Sweat will pool in places you didn’t know you had ravines. You won’t have to go to the bathroom, but you won’t not have to go the bathroom. You will swear that a single ray of sunlight is burning a nickel-sized hole in your brain.
This is just a tiny little tater tot of discomfort in what has been a hotdish of pleasure.
Find a tree, maybe even in the somewhat shaded spot by the historic cabin-like building that houses the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Take a few deep in-and-out-hales.
If you’ve brought along a human whose shrieks indicate she is, maybe, over it — over the cotton candy clouds, over Strawberry, the horse she named on the carousel, over being told “No, you can’t have a 4-foot-tall balloon shaped like a Sriracha bottle” — this is what henceforth will be known as a Pronto Pup Moment.
This is when you stop, drop and roll your way to the nearest Pronto Pup stand — they are in abundance — and hand its keeper a crisp fiver. Don’t bother asking your small human shrieker about condiments, just splurge. Get both flavors — red and yellow.
This will fix everything. Forever. Everyone will be fine. You’re OK.
Buckle into your own personal Skyride — here are more tips for navigating the Minnesota State Fair, which runs through Sept. 2 in Falcon Heights.
You are about to walk onto the 322 acres of fairgrounds alongside what-say 100-200,000 other people — not to mention animals and butter carved into the likeness of a human head. It’s good to do a little homework. First, buy your tickets online so you can just flash your phone at the gate. There are plenty of other lines to stand in; skip this one. Second, stay on the website. This will also tell you which suburban church-community center to park at so you can conveniently take the bus almost to the gates. Download the app. It makes it easy to find, for instance, a beer or mini donuts or a pickle stuffed with bratwurst and deep fried — all with a map that shows you where you are in relation to your destination. And scout the entertainment. There’s nothing, nothing as terrible as finding out that Stevie Nicks is sharing the same 332 acres with you, but that you won’t be seeing her. (Sorry, 2018 self.)
We're here, what now?
Whether you’re a newbie or a total fair-head, there is always some new pocket to explore. Use social media to your advantage: Ask your Facebook friends and Insta followers and TikTok team for tips and tricks. Happy fair-goers will happily talk fair. Go for your own personal milk-drinking record, they’ll say, and definitely check out the Lizzo seed art. One Twitter tipster said she was bringing address labels in hopes of winning a mattress.
At the very least, travel with a new posse. We hung with a threesome that, over the years, had settled into a tried-and-true route through the fair. When we raised our fists into the air and shouted “To the fine arts building!” it was all new terrain for them.
One bathroom, two doors
Three long-lined bathroom breaks into this year’s state fair sesh, the bearers of a life lesson came filing out with big news: There’s another door to this bathroom on the other side of the building, and there is no line. True story. Most of the bathrooms have two doors, one that is very obvious and very long and one that requires sneaking around back. Sneak around back, friends.
The Giant Slide (you can’t miss it) is exactly as fun as it looks: loads. It’s five stories tall, colorfully mounded, and it’s celebrating its 50th year. It’s $2.50 per rider and if you love it, it has its own merch booth.
Stay for the 'works
Every night, after the grandstand act’s finale, the state fair blasts off a pretty great firework display. All around us, people stopped eating-drinking-walking-vending and looked at the rainbow bursts in the night sky.