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'I’m just down to eat': Faces of the 2017 Minnesota State Fair

Scotty Gunderson

Scotty Gunderson

Does the Minnesota State Fair evolve with the rest of the world?

Every year vendors introduce a new alcoholic oddity, a colorful new way to spin and get pukey, another fried food item that’s had a stick jammed into it. You could say these are incremental steps forward.

Meanwhile, the world outside the fairgrounds moves by at an ever-increasing, alarmingly fly-by pace. In a single day, we might see North Korea shooting shit into the ocean while Trump fires people via Twitter from his late-night throne -- all while we’re fed a constant diet of media that whips from terror to Kylie Jenner’s booty at breakneck speed.

But the fair runs on its own timetable, glued together by its own gravity. It’s a safe space, if we can call it that, from any kind of serious life issue whatsoever. It’s a place that’s adverse to depth and seriousness, drawn to simplicity, phobic to change. For most, the fair is a Xanax-like hit of nostalgia served with a side of 8,000 calories. And that’s the way we like it.

Outside these fences, change, conflict, and your daily hot-takes are unstoppable. But inside these Falcon Heights gates, everyone operates at the speed of chill. Meet some of these brave heroes.

Kurt Huber
Bloomington

City Pages: What is your State Fair food routine?

Kurt Huber: Hit the Peg at 6 a.m ... everything else the rest of the day, mini donuts on the way home.

CP: What have you eaten so far?

KH: Oh boy. Big Dog’s corndogs, the sausage, ham, and toast at the Peg this morning, Pronto Pup. I’ve had several large lemonades. And cider.

CP: So, you’re hydrated?

KH: Yeah.

CP: If you were a fried food, what would you be?

KH: Not the ribs, they were terrible.

CP: Your idea of a romantic date -- the ferris wheel or the sky ride?

KH: Which skyride? The closed one is good ... for activities.

CP: What’s the freakiest thing you’ve seen in the horticulture building?

KH: Oh boy.

CP: Or any of the animal barns?

KH: The birthing center is always an experience. Best with a couple of caps.

CP: What do you look forward to seeing in there?

KH: In the birthing center?

CP: Yes.

KH: The farmers’ daughters.

CP: One last question, is the butterfly house cute or cruel?

KH: I would not say it is cruel.

CP: So you are saying it is cute?

KH: I don’t know man. They are bugs in cages.

Miranda
Minneapolis

City Pages: List of everything you’ve eaten so far.

Miranda: I just got here, so I’ve only had fried pickles. But I’m planning on eating everything - cookies, turkey leg, exotic foods, whatever there is. I’m just down to eat.

CP: Are you going to try any new foods?

M: Yes, I heard that there’s flavored cheese curds this year, so I’m going to get on that.

CP: If you were to live in one state fair building for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

M: Umm. [Thinks for a while.] The Coliseum is at the top of the list.

CP: If you were a fair food, what would you be?

M: Sweet Martha’s Cookies. [Gives sweet smile.]

Kyle Bantz & Ian Dees
Minneapolis

City Pages: List everything you’ve eaten so far at the fair.

Kyle Bantz: Oh goodness.

Ian Dees: Today or yesterday?

CP: Both.

Kyle: Corn-on-the-cob, deep-fried Oreos, the juicy turkey sandwich, Sweet Martha’s cookies, BBQ baked potatoes, and cider pops.

CP: Anything else?

Kyle: All-you-can-drink milk.

CP: Do you like going to the birthing center?

Kyle: Not really.

CP: If you were to pick one building at the fair to live in for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Ian: The 4-H building with the auctions. I don’t know if I would live there by choice but that was pretty cool. They were auctioning off the grand prize steer, pigs, everything.

CP: Are you mourning the loss of the Original Cheese Curd stand?

Kyle: I didn’t realize it was gone.

CP: Yes, it is gone. It is very sad. What would you sacrifice to bring it back?

Ian: The BBQ potato stand we were just at. It was terrible.

CP: What’s the best State Fair bathroom?

Kyle: The one in the Eco center is really nice. Nobody knows about it. There weren’t that many people in there, it was well kept up.

Taylor Mitchell
St. Paul

City Pages: What have you eaten so far?

Taylor Mitchell: The scotch egg. It’s my favorite thing at the fair.

CP: Is it the first thing you go for every time?

TM: Pretty much. This is my second time at the fair this year.

CP: What did you eat the other time?

TM: I didn’t. I just met up with people to get drunk.

CP: Nice. Are you more of a stuffed frickle guy or a spicy frickle guy?

TM: Spicy.

CP: Would you say you’re a corn dog or a Pronto Pup?

TM: Pronto Pup.

CP: Is the butterfly house cute or cruel?

TM: I think it’s creepy. I’m not a big fan of butterflies.

CP: Is there anything that can’t be fried?

TM: Fried salad. Deep fried lettuce doesn’t work right?

Sky Day
Duluth

City Pages: What is your State Fair food routine?

Sky Day: Just go straight to the fried pickles.

CP: If you were a fried pickle, would you be stuffed with cream cheese, spicy, or original?

SD: Cream cheese.

CP: OK, overall though, if you were a fried food, what would you be?

SD: A fried Twinkie.

CP: If you were to pick one building at the fair to live in for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

SD: The dairy building. I really like cows.

CP: What has changed about the fair this year?

SD: It seems like there aren’t as many corn dog places.

Diane & Brad Ward
Eden Prairie

City Pages: Green Bay vs. Vikings. Is this a big thing in your family?

Brad Ward: Both my dad and my mom’s family are born and raised in Wisconsin. I’m still a Packer fan all the way.

Diane Ward: I’m born and raised in Minnesota, so of course I am a Viking’s fan.

CP: List everything you’ve eaten so far:

Brad: A malt at the Dairy Building.

CP: What flavor?

Diane: I had the raspberry.

Brad: I had the blueberry.

Diane: We couldn't agree on that.

CP: What foods are you on the lookout for?

Diane: Cheese curds.

CP: Are you sad that the Original Cheese Curd stand closed down?

Diane: Oh my gosh, it’s a tragedy.

CP: If you were forced to live in a State Fair building for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

Diane: Giggles, the restaurant. Totally delicious.

CP: Are you more of a turkey leg family or a turkey sandwich family?

Brad: Turkey breast.

Diane: Turkey sandwich.

CP: What is the freakiest or weirdest thing you’ve seen at the fair?

Diane: Umm … the freakiest? Hm. Well the coolest thing was getting a picture with Al Franken.

CP: If you were to dream up the perfect State Fair food, what would it be?

Diane: Something with shrimp. Has to be on a stick.

Brad: Creole shrimp on a stick. I love Creole and Cajun food a lot.

CP: What has changed this year about the fair?

Diane: There’s a big ferris wheel. [They point.]

Hadiya Lewis
Minneapolis (MCAD International Student from the British Virgin Islands)

City Pages: List everything you’ve eaten so far.

Hadiya Lewis: I had a tipsy blueberry lime pie. I also had a turkey leg, and some lemonade.

CP: People of Minnesota -- nice or ice?

HL: Nice, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met a lot of friends since I’ve been here.

CP: Is there anything that can’t be fried?

HL: Don’t fry olives please. Just don’t do it.

CP: I just ate them -- They’re really good.

HL: That just seems kinda icky to me.

CP: Is the butterfly house cute or cruel?

HL: I haven’t been there.

CP: You can still pass judgment.

HL: Is it taxidermied butterflies?

CP: No, they’re caged butterflies that you can tour around.

HL: Do they let them go ever?

CP: Hmm. I don’t know.

HL: I think it is somewhere in between. Because butterflies are pretty, but please let them go.

CP: If you were forced to live in a State Fair building for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

HL: Probably the Horticulture Building because of all the corn art. And the scarecrows remind me of Halloween and that’s my favorite holiday.

CP: What’s the freakiest thing you’ve seen at the fair this year?

HL: I saw a painting of Vladimir Putin feeding Trump a corn dog. I didn’t expect to see that.

CP: If you could have one thing carved out of butter, what would you have carved?

HL: Edgar Allen Poe. Or a really pretty gothic church.

Ellie Meyer
Onalaska, Wisconsin

City Pages: Do you come to the fair every year?

Ellie Meyer: This is my first time.

CP: Whoa, what do you think?

EM: It’s a lot of people, but it’s really fun. Food is good.

CP: What have you eaten so far?

EM: I just got here, so the corn is the first thing.

CP: Do you think you’re more a stuffed frickles gal or a spicy frickle gal?

EM: Spicy frickle. Absolutely.

CP: Since this is your first time at the fair, are you going to check out the Miracle of Birth Center?

EM: I didn’t know that was a thing.

CP: Yes! You can go watch animals give live birth.

EM: That is cool.

CP: What animal would you want to see give birth?

EM: Whatever is the least gross.

CP: What would you imagine is the least gross?

EM: Maybe a little pig?

CP: Do you think there is anything that can’t be fried?

EM: Deep-fried bubblegum is too far.

Joel Simonson
White Bear Lake

City Pages: How tall are you?

Joel Simonson: 6’9”.

CP: Wow. What does it feel like to be 6’9” at the fair?

JS: It’s kinda nice. I can plow my way through the crowds a little easier. People tend to clear a path.

CP: Being that tall, do you enjoy people watching from up there?

JS: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

CP: What are you on the lookout for?

JS: I kinda look for someone who stands out, someone with a unique haircut or unique facial feature. I listen for snippets of conversation as they go by, and hearing stuff out of context is hilarious.

CP: Is this your first beer?

JS: Yep. We tried one of the wine flights over at the Minnesota Wine Room. And a wine slushie.

CP: What’s the wine slushie like?

JS: It was pretty good. Not nearly as sweet as I thought it would be.

CP: Turkey sandwich or turkey leg?

JS: I’ve had the turkey leg, but that’s a lot of turkey. Turkey sandwich is the way to go.

CP: Is the butterfly house cute or cruel?

JS: I think it’s kinda cute.

CP: Is there anything that can’t be fried?

JS: Liquids are hard.

CP: If you were to dream up the perfect State Fair food, what would it be?

JS: That’s a tough question. Honestly, I am kinda a purist when it comes to the fair foods. My favorite thing every year is the foot long hot dog.

CP: Do you always go for a footlong dog over a regular one?

JS: Absolutely.

CP: So you’re a footlong guy?

JS: Absolutely.

CP: Is there anything that has changed about the fair this year?

JS: No. I was walking around and what struck me was just how everything is still in its place. You’re walking around and it’s like, I remember going up this street and, oh yeah, there’s this stand, that stand. I’ve been here before.