Posts Tagged ‘great ways to spend Labor Day weekend’

Summer's Last Hurrah

Summer’s Last Hurrah, leaving the Minnesota State Fair, Droid Shots, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Buttered popcorn shrimp
grilled in sight, for your delight,
the tunnels of Ye Old Mill—
shadow people light the night
bearing Summer's last hurrah.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, September 5th, 2011

-related to post: haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Smartphone History On-The-Go)

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Flowering Onion, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, September 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s Labor Day, final day of the Minnesota State Fair, when the last of 12 Butter Queens will take her place in the Butter Booth at the Dairy Building. The Fair signifies the unofficial end of Summer (officially marked by shadows of the Fall Equinox). We spent 6 hours walking around the Fairgrounds last Friday.

The art in the juried show seemed of a higher caliber this year. We saw some great work in the Art Building, including the commemorative painting from artist Leo Stans displayed front and center.

In the food category, we bought a paring knife at Standing Buffalo Knives and a Grill It! in the Merchandise Building. As strange as the Grill It! looks (an engineer must have designed it), we made the best bacon ever for breakfast yesterday morning. But we weren’t as adventurous as usual when consuming Minnesota State Fair foods on-a-stick.

Liz and I are eating 8 leftover Tom Thumb Donuts as I type and trying to recall what else we had to eat last Friday. We split a Flowering Onion four ways with our friends, a bucket of fries with vinegar and ketchup, a Papa Pronto Pup from one of the original 1947 stands, two large cups of fresh squeezed lemonade (refills half price), and a few morsels of chicken from the Grill It! demonstrator.

We brought home Saint Agnes Baking Company’s blueberry lemon sourdough bread, named after the widowed Grandma Agnes Rod who began baking in the 1940’s. That might be all we consumed in the food department. Well, except for our personal best — Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks from Famous Dave’s.

Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, MN State Fair, St. Paul,
Minnesota, September 2009, all photos © 2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

These little morsels are pork cheeks marinated in garlic, herbs, spices, and honey served on-a-stick and grilled with peach chipotle glaze. Our friends really liked them. But we found them a little gamey. Though they were extremely tender, they tasted more like dark meat than the white pork I tend to eat. The peach glaze, however, was fantastic.

I did a little research and it seems that the pig cheeks are different than the jowls. I’m no expert, but I read that the pig jowl tends to be the actual fatty part that is almost like pork belly in its striation and normally does not include the pig cheek.

The pig cheeks are mostly from the side of the head, not from under the chin. The upper part is rather thin and mostly skin. The lower part is adjacent to the true jowl, so it is thicker than the upper part and has the same striations as the jowl.

Whether cheeks or jowls, I’m not much for consuming dicey parts of a pig. But I’m glad we tried them. My favorite times were when we stopped to chat with people like Stan Stokesbary of Standing Buffalo Knives who handcrafts knives out of old buzz saw blades. Or Ronald Kelsey who has part of his collection of 500 vintage seed bags displayed in the Horticulture Building.

How many pounds of seed are in a bushel? You’ll see the number on the bottom corner of each and every sack.

-posted on red Ravine, Happy Labor Day, Monday, September 7th, 2009

-related to posts: MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, Mary In Minnesota, food on-a-stick haiku

-More photos from this year’s Fair in QuoinMonkey’s Minnesota State Fair Series

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Electric Snow Cone, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Electric Snow Cone, Minnesota State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s Labor Day weekend and we’re recovering from our second day at the Minnesota State Fair. For me, the Fair is about photography, food, and history. On Wednesday, we checked out the State Fair and Sesquicentennial history exhibits and enjoyed a Gnarls Barkley concert and fireworks in the Grandstand.

There is a JFK Remembered exhibit this year that we wanted to attend (Kennedy’s death had a big impact on me as a child). We passed the building when we arrived, but the lines were too long (the exhibit is drawing 20,000 people a day). We had planned to circle back, but you know how it goes at the Fair. Navigation routes are turned topsy-turvy; we never made it back.

The exhibit is the personal collection of Nick Ciacelli. He started collecting in the 4th grade on the day Kennedy was assassinated. The exhibit contains rare items such as Kennedy’s jewelry box, a gift from his father in 1946, and a pair of gold Texas star cufflinks he never got to wear. The exhibit was featured on WCCO News a few nights ago — ‘JFK Remembered’ Exhibit Drawing Record Fairgoers.

        Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Icy Spoons, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On Friday, we returned to the Fair. We did the weave-and-dodge past weary food vendors, and over-full rides, then ate our way through the Food Building, packed with wall-to-wall people (wait until you hear about the Pickle Pop on-a-stick!). We visited the Education, Creative Activity, Horticulture, and HealthCare buildings and picked up a few freebies at the Merchandise Mart.

There are 3 days left to attend the Minnesota State Fair. It’s a beautiful cloudless Saturday: low humidity, sun, slight breeze, blue skies. There must be thousands of people planning to venture around St. Paul’s blocked off roads (for the Republican National Convention) to make their way down the Midway. I thought it might be helpful to have a check-off list of must-haves (in no particular order) to take with you to the Fair.

Hidden Values Of A Casket, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Hidden Values Of A Casket, vintage Minnesota Casket Company booth at the MN State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair)

  • State Fair tickets — easy to forget. slide them in your wallet
  • Blue Ribbon Bargain Book — see details under Ways To Save $$$ in the second link on this post
  • Rain jacket — and rain pants if you have them. It drizzled all through Gnarls Barkley and poured as we were leaving. You never know!
  • Portable umbrella — small enough to fit in a backpack. When it comes to umbrellas, remember, you get what you pay for.
  • Shoes with good arches — flat feet or not, your feet and legs will be tired; they need lots of support.
  • Water bottle — unbreakable and full. Fair food is greasy and salty. You are going to be thirsty for water!
  • $$$ — with attachable wallet ring. The Fair makes you spacy. The right accessories help to keep the right things close to your body.
  • Backpack — comfortable with lots of zippered pockets
  • Sweatshirt — hooded, for cooler evenings at the Grandstand
  • Map of the Fairgrounds — with streets, bathrooms, buildings, and information booths labeled. You can pick this up at any Information booth when you enter the Fair. Believe me, you’re going to need it.
  • Tree Sculptures By Name map — kind of like playing the License Plate Game with your kids on the family vacation. (Details in Comment #43 on the second link in this post.)
  • Deals, Drawings, & Giveaways Guide — this is your guide to everything FREE at the Fair. (Details in Comment #43 on the second link in this post.) 
  • Hat — with a brim to shield direct sun from eyes. August in Minnesota is bright!
  • Sunglasses – any kind, cheap or designer. I saw two kids wearing blue LCD light-up sunglasses at night on the Midway. It’s a strange adaptation, but it works!
  • Suntan lotion – does Rudolph ring a bell?
  • List of 63 foods on-a-stick — and their locations on the Fairgrounds. I marked the ones I wanted to try on the map in highlighter. Well, okay, that’s just me. (More info and a list of all 63 foods in the second link on this post.)
  • List of streets blocked off in St. Paul — for the Republican National Convention. It hasn’t officially started, but already there have been street closings and police raids in St. Paul. Is it the Boy Scout motto that says, “Be Prepared?”
  • Plan for your parking spot — it’s mobbed, friends. You’ll pay $9 for the lots. Make an alternative plan to save money. Have any friends living near the Fairgrounds?
  • Cameras and video cam — don’t forget charged batteries, portable tripod
  • Tickets to Gnarls Barkley & Cloud Cult — these were the tickets we had to remember. Varies with the evening. BTW, Cloud Cult is one of Liz’s favorite bands. They combine art and music beautifully in their concerts. Two painters work on canvas during the concert; then they auction the paintings off at the end. See them if you ever get a chance!
  • Trash bags — large brown plastic ones to cover gear and body if it rains
  • Aluminum foil and baggies — for extra foods on-a-stick that you’re too full to eat or want to cart home. We used quite a few of these!
  • List of Must-Do Pointsdo the things important to you first, before you get worn out. For us it was: History Building, Farmers Union, Public Radio, WCCO, Art Building, Crop Art, chickens, Dairy Barn, Butter Queen sculptures, photographs of carousel, Ferris wheel, roller coaster.
  • List of places where there are seats and shade — you’re going to want to get off your feet and out of the sun once in a while! I had a mini-meltdown last night when my ice cream was melting down my hand, a blister was forming on my right foot, and my camera battery died all at the same time. A 15 minute rest on a nearby bench did the trick.
  • ChapStick — for the dry lips that happen from sun, wind, and all that screaming!
  • Napkins, paper towels, & Wet Ones — need I say more? Yeah, grease, and everything else touchy-feely-sticky imaginable.
  • Flashlight — portable LED that hangs around the neck (with fresh batteries)
  • Pressure point wrist bands — for vertigo from the rides. Liz bought these for her plane trip to Georgia this year (I ended up using them on our car rides). Yesterday, I wore them to the Fair. They really do work!
  • Gratitude — to the 3000+ workers who labor at the Fair to make it all possible. (After all, it is Labor Day weekend!)


If you don’t live close enough to make it to the Minnesota State Fair, you can live vicariously by visiting the pieces sprinkled throughout this post. They contain all the links and trivia you’ll ever need to know about the Minnesota State Fair (with the exception of their official website).

Or better yet, plan on attending a local Fair this Fall in the part of the planet you call home and write an essay about your own experiences. It’s good to support the local economy (think global, buy local), and have tons of family fun in the process. Oh, and if you think of anything I should add to the list, feel free to leave it in the comments. I just thought of one other thing I neglected to mention — TUMS!

State Fair Chautauqua (150 Years Of Statehood), Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

State Fair Chautauqua (150 Years Of Statehood), celebrating all people and cultures of Minnesota, Minnesota State Fair, half way between St. Paul & Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, August 30th, 2008

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