The Minnesota State Fair Is Canceled, But Food Vendors Are Making It Work
In late May, several members of the Minnesota State Agricultural Society Board had an undoubtedly solemn Zoom meeting and made the difficult decision to cancel the Minnesota State Fair due to coronavirus concerns. The fair is not being held for the first time since 1946, when a polio outbreak swept through the state.
"This is the time of year when things really need to take off, and we can't do it. There's not time," General Manager Jerry Hammer told local TV station KARE. "If somehow we were able to cobble a fair together [...] you wouldn't like it, you wouldn't recognize it," Hammer said. "We all love the Fair. That's exactly why we can't have a fair. This is about doing the right thing for the future of the Fair."
That's not a small thing—or a decision that was made lightly. The Minnesota State Fair is one of the country's biggest, attracting more than 2.1 million visitors last year. And although it's exciting to ride a hastily assembled roller coaster, or to spend $40 trying to win a $5 bootleg Pikachu, the real attraction at any state fair is the food. And fortunately for Minnesotans, some of the fair's food vendors are setting up stands in parking lots throughout the state and in neighboring Wisconsin.
"We know we have so many loyal customers we thought we’d come here and sell cheese on a stick and lemonade,” Stacy Pittroff-Barona, told WCCO from her Cheese on a Stick stand, which was temporarily located outside the Roseville VFW hall. According to the Pioneer Press, The Donut Family has also taken to the road to sell cheese curds, corn dogs, cotton candy, lemonade and (of course) mini doughnuts.
And there are so many other vendors out and about that there's now an interactive Google map that shows where some of these popular trucks will be heading next, including The Donut Family, Cheese on a Stick, Sara's Tipsy Pies, and West Indies Soul Food.
There is also a Minnesota State Fair Food Finder page on Facebook, where people can swap intel about where to get an order of cheese curd tacos (!!!) or a deep-fried Minneapple Pie. (There are also so many delicious-looking pictures that you'll be ready to get in the car, put the address of a random Menards parking lot in your GPS, and drive until you're holding a half-dozen corn dogs.)
And then there's the glorious Kathy Heise, who has run a Pronto Pups stand since the late 1980s. (Pronto Pups are deep-fried, batter dipped hot dogs, and the fastest way to start a fight with a nice Minnesota lady is to call a Pronto Pup a “corn dog.”) Heise has parked her food stand at the end of her Minneapolis driveway, and she sells Pups and cotton candy five days a week.
"[The response] is so overwhelming, it just brings me to tears, because you know they’re just so happy to see me, and I thought they were going to think I was nuts,” she said.
So, uh, who's up for that road trip?