It's the world's strangest Pavlovian experiment: Place Minnesota residents in the vicinity of massive quantities of manure, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, and spinning Midway rides, and their mouths immediately begin watering for food on a stick. In addition to the old standbys (Machinery Hill, Sweet Martha's cookies, cheese curds, what have you), there are a few other must-sees that some fairgoers might miss. While chewing on a hunk of chocolate-covered bacon on a stick (new this year), head over to the Miracle of Birth Center to learn all about where that pig you're noshing on came from. If you're feeling the onset of sunburn, step inside the Eco Experience exhibit to learn about the future of renewable energy. And at night, when you've absorbed all you can handle, it will be time for beer and live music at the Grandstand and various free stages throughout the fairgrounds. Three Doors Down (you remember their hit "Kryptonite"?) will play on August 21, Gnarls Barkley will perform after local darlings Cloud Cult on the 27th. The 30th will be monochromatic music night, with the Black Keys and Black Crows performing, and country legend/Ford pitchman Toby Keith will close the fair out on Labor Day. Looking for free tunes? Some highlights at the Leinie Lodge include Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings August 21-22, War the 27-28, and Trampled by Turtles the 29-30. Go to www.mnstatefair.org or call for more information.
Aug. 21-31, 6-midnight; Mon., Sept. 1, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., 2008