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state fair prices: shocking

  • m

7 bucks for a foot long corn dog. 8 for a turkey leg. very few non beverage items for under 5 bucks. the only good news: it helps avoid over eating. our group of 3 shared one item at a time.

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  1. I agree the prices are outrageous. I truly don't understand all the hype for mediocre, high fat, high priced food. I guess it is the memories of the fair that enhance the tastes. I find most fair food overwhelmingly pricy, not particularly good tasting. But, I did not grow up in MN or grow up going to State Fairs. I don't understand the "on a stick" phenomenon. Its not in my blood. But then again, I am not a Minnesotan and just don't have the emotional investment in the state fair. I find it prohibitively expensive for most people of low or moderate means. It becomes elitist in its populist sentiments.

    2 Replies
    1. re: docfood

      there always seems to be an imbalance where the Fair is this mega junk and fast food festival. yes, you have the animal barns and the grandstand. a limited number of educational/informational exhibits. but it's alll food, food, food. and like the poster said, food that's mediocre and overpriced. along with claustrophobic crowds.. I admit it: I go and then wonder why. the state fair people have done a good job of brainwashing people-- that this is THE way to end summer. The Great Minnesota Get Together. the crowds seem to me to be heavily on the young and family side of things. hope they have big wallets.

      1. re: MarkG

        There's plenty of food that isn't junk if you want to eat it. How is corn on the cob junk? Milk? Pork chops? (So what if it's on a stick--that's just so you can eat it without having to sit down.) You may not like the price of the turkey leg, but it's not junk. There's watermelon, grapes, nuts, and so on. There is a lot of excitement about new foods, especially if it's on a stick, but, c'mon, live a little, it's just once a year. The whole "on a stick" thing is intended to make the food more portable. It's gotten a little gimmicky, but as long as the food tastes good, I'm not bothered by it.

        And, yes, the fair is mostly about food. It's really the culmination of all of the local fairs, which is primarily a rural thing, and rural, in this state, pretty much equates to agriculture. I disagree about the "limited" number of exhibits. There are so many exhibits I want to see I usually make two trips every year. Usually I eat two meals--breakfast and lunch--on each trip. I'm at the fair by 7am when it's cool, quiet, and not crowded and I can eat my breakfast like a civilized human being. I'm out of there by noon, before it gets too hot, loud, or crowded.

        Here's my typical minimum must-do agenda (not in any particular order):

        Breakfast: the Peg or Salem Lutheran Church. Sometimes I branch out (as I, regrettably, did on my first trip this year.)

        Dairy Building/Empire commons: viewing of butterheads, checking out winning meat products (I've discovered some awesome small-town meat markets/butchers this way), pick up free dairy, wild rice, pork, and beef recipes from various booths.

        Ag-hort building: check out the crop/seed art; go see the big pumpkins and other prize winning vegetables; check out winning honey entrants. Talk to the beekeeper. Pick up this years free honey recipes.

        4-H building: admire the kid's projects, catch part of a show or a demo.

        Creative activities--look at all of the canning and baking entrants, figure out if anyone if I know won. Maybe catch a baking demo.

        UofM building--admire this year's trophy, if there is one. (FLOYD!)

        Fine Arts--admire all of the art

        Eco Experience--there's always something wacky and new, usually something food-related--though I didn't make it this year.

        Animal barns: must do: big pig, litter of piglets. Other animals optional, though I like the turkeys.

        DNR building: admire the fish pond, analyze the junk sculpture; climb the fire tower.

        DFL booth: see if anyone of interest will be there. Sign petitions, whatever.

        Radio station booths: check out who the live radio personalities are.

        Somewhere in there I usually stop for coffee at the Farmers Union. Pop at the MIdway Men's Association. And lunch where ever. (On my visit #2 this year it was the salty all-deep-fried lunch: Cheese curds and french fries. All shared, of course.)

        That's usually all I can do in two, relaxed, early morning visits.


    2. Yeah, I've never understood the appeal. Hot, dusty, smelly, crowded, mediocre food.....but I usually get skewered by others when I voice these things. Its supporters do seem to try to imply that the fair is some sort of civic pride/support thing, which is contradicted by the large number of for-(large)profits vendors doing business there. I know someone who has a food booth there, and she told me that they could easily live for an entire year on the profits made each summer at the state fair. No crime in earning money; I support that concept entirely. It's just that I'm not going to buy into the whole civic pride thing and be shamed into going.

      I do enjoy the Renaissance Festival, although it has deteriorated over the years. The food used to be actually good there; now it's just O.K. But it is a more pleasant and entertaining place to be than the fair, at least.

      7 Replies
      1. re: sandylc

        I totally get the issue with it being dusty and overpriced as well as mediocre but for you to claim that the RenFest is somehow better just makes me question your entire comment.

        Even when I went for free on Media Day many years ago, it was all of those things: dusty, mediocre and overpriced (even though food, beer and admission were free). Honestly, while I don't care for either, at least I can see the draw to the State Fair. RenFest, however, is a total waste of money IMO. Being that it costs more to get in and the food is the same price I really just don't see any reason to go there at all.

        1. re: Bill Roehl

          It's my opinion based upon numerous personal experiences and I'll stick with it, thank you. I am sorry you didn't appreciate the Renaissance Festival; as I stated, it really isn't what it used to be many years ago, but I still prefer it to the fair.

        2. re: sandylc

          I don't like the large vendors at the Fair, either. I expressed this same sentiment in the other State Fair thread. I rather not have my fair experience diluted by experiences and foods I can have any other day of the year, because, as you point out (and as I said in the other thread), it's hot and crowded and a pain to get to. But, nevertheless, I don't really go to the fair for the food. I go to the fair for all of those exhibits and such. (I don't know about you, but I just don't see a lot of butter sculpture or seed art in my every day life.)

          But just because food isn't my primary reason for going to the fair, doesn't mean I don't like to eat good food while I'm there. And, I'd say there is good food to be found. Would I eat this same food outside of a fair setting? Maybe. I don't know. The honey ice cream, yes. The cheese curds? Once a year, sure. Some of these foods--fries, shakes, cream puffs--etc. can certainly be found during non-fair time, but I eat them so rarely because I try to avoid fried and sugary foods in general. Fair food for me is a bit of an indulgence, though some years I've gone and eaten nothing sugary or fried. It just depends. But, even so, there's only so much I can indulge, even at the Fair. Half a thing of fries and half a thing of cheesecurds was the most I could manage at my last visit. Any more than that, and I would be very sorry.

          I haven't been to the Renaissance Festval in MN, but I've been to it in other places. If it's the same food as I've experienced in the other locations, wow, it's certainly no place I'd go solely for the food.

          I don't see why you should be shamed in going to the fair. If you don't like butter sculpture and seed art and looking at whose pie took first place, well then there's no point in going. Certainly not for the food alone. I actually think those things are interesting, but if you don't, I won't judge you. (Or I will, but only a little. :) ). But, if you think the rest of us are going just for the food, then you're probably mistaken.


          1. re: sandylc

            I agree the Renaissance festival is more entertaining. I think the food at the Renaissance is significantly worse than the State Fair, and just not good by any stretch of the imagination. The turkey legs are ok, but I can't name another food there that is even passable as food. Campbells soup in a bread bowl?

            1. re: galewskj

              Anyone going to the Ren Fest for the food is missing the point. It's not about the food (although this year I did manage to sniff up an excellent cup of coffee). I don't mind the soup stand - if you get the drunken chili it's pretty decent, and the apple dumpling a la mode was nice (though half of that was probably that I was getting very hot and the ice cream would have tasted good no matter what).

              If I were looking for fine dining, I wouldn't be driving out to East Nowhere and walking around with a bunch of nerds carrying swords and screaming about pickles, ya know? ;)

              1. re: shadowfax

                I agree completely. I was just responding to someone else's comment comparing the food at the renaissance festival favorably to the state fair. The state fair food is what it is, the food at the renaissance is lousy.

          2. Hmmm... I just got a nice sit-down breakfast--eggs, toast, ham-- at the Peg, with table service, for $7 ($8 with coffee)--tip on top of that, of course. Nothing fancy, but a solid meal. I guess it just depends on what you get. These vendors only have 12 days to recoup their costs, and some of those buildings aren't cheap. Epiphany DIner said it was closing because they estimated it would take 5 years to recover the costs of capital repairs that were needed.

            That said, there are very few items I don't share at the fair, mostly because I don't need the caloric hit.


            1. Maybe next year it should be re-named the Minnesota State Unfair.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                For planning purposes outside food and beverages are allowed on the fairgrounds if the price of the food is a real problem.

                1. re: Samalicious

                  Or, you can get your hand stamped and go tailgate in the parking lot. I saw a couple of families doing that on my way out this year and it looked like they were having a fantastic time.


              2. In Tucson we have the Fourth AVenue street Fair twice a year. I've been going since the very beginnig, so have watched the food prices rise. Oddly enough, the beer prices don't go over the moon, probably because the neighborhod associations run them as designated charities. I've watched the chicken sticks go from a dollar to four dollars, for one litttle standard skewer. They and all the others have a more or less captive audience, it's usually hot, being Tucson, and I'm sure they all get together and bump up the prices en toto so that nobody tries to undercut the mob and therefore get probably burned down one unfortunate night. Not unionized, but not far off. Just my opinion, I have no idea if this shaizen (sp) actually goes on, but it wouldn't surprise me.so why would it not go on everywhere, is what i'm getting at

                1. I am just fresh off the experience and the prices where cheap but not too crazy either.

                  1) Cheese Curds (mouse trap place) $5.50. Our family heads to places like the Groveland Tap and have cheese curds every now and again. They probably cost the same or bit more.

                  2) Gyro from Holy Land. $9. This is basically a take out container with a pita across the bottom some tomato and lettuce on top followed by a lot ( yes a lot ) of gyro meat and some taziki sauce. My wife and I had this for lunch. At Mid town market I guess / believe the price for Gyro is $6 or so and I don't think they have nearly the quantity of meat in them.

                  3) Dairy. From the Dairy barn ordered 2 cones and one chocolate Sunday: Total : $10 and sizes were generous. I don't know about you, but last time I went the DQ , prices were pretty high and portions not so much.

                  Anyway, this is what we had at the fair today. Great weather so water fountain water was good for me.



                  Groveland Tap
                  1834 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                  1. There are few prepared, non-beverage items anywhere for under 5 bucks. Most items are within 20% of their non-fair counterparts. This is true of Harry Singhs, Izzy's ice cream, cheese curds, O'Garas, Axel's, Sweet Martha's, Giggles (though most of what Giggle's sells is unavailable at Gabe's).

                    All of the sit down diners offer meals for $6-9.

                    Turkey legs, corn dogs, and anything with a giant frenzy of swirly potato crisps can get away with a markup because people see them and think "I've gotta have one".

                    1. The thing that I find "shocking" is that anyone is surprised at the prices/value of the food there. Is the $10 admission "sobering", "appalling", or "tragic"? My hyperbole machine is on the fritz.

                      From a Chowhound perspective, the Fair has just as much appeal to me as the Mall of America. Chow just isn't the Fair's purpose to me. Now, if I lived in a town of 32 on the SW corner of the State, some of it might seem more interesting.

                      All the food does is give me some nourishment to get around to the Fine Arts building (really amazing and underrated), watch the sheep auctions, check out my friend Barb Schaller's unreal work/entries in the canning contest (which takes her a crazy amount of effort leading up to the Fair, which I follow on her Facebook posts), and chat with farmers from around the State. And this year the Ricky Scaggs concert at the FREE Leinie's stage...unbelieveably great musicians. Same place I saw Keith Urban for FREE several years ago before anyone knew who he was. Now THAT'S a shocking value.

                      Anyhoo...I'm not sure this really contributes to anyone finding great chow (the purpose of this forum after all) but neither does the OP really.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: MSPD

                        Right there with ya, MSPD.

                        My yearly "must see" list includes the 4-in-line pole bending (a horse show event), the quilts, the gladiolas/dahlias, the art show, the parade of the day, the talent show finals. All of those are free, by the way. My "must eat" list is ... roasted corn.

                        1. re: KTFoley

                          Do they still have the Danielson's and Daughters onion rings? That is the only reason I'd go back to the fair. Those things are awesome!

                          1. re: sheepy

                            They do! Rick Nelson even listed them as one of his top ten favorites. I've never tried them, but I might have to next year. I didn't try them this year because Nelson's story came out right before my second visit. After my first (disappointing food-wise) visit this year, I declared a moritorium on trying any foods I hadn't tried before.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I'm glad Danielson & Daughters onion rings are still there! I remember many years ago, I mentioned that I wanted the rings more than once a year, and one of the daughters told me they have a restaurant. I told her I didn't want to know, because I was afraid I'd eat onion rings too often. Now that I'm not really able to get around the fair anymore, I wish I knew if the restaurant still existed and where it is located. Anyone know?

                              1. re: sheepy

                                I don't know, but I hope someone else does. In the meantime, here's an article on that D&D booth. It doesn't sound like the family is currently associated with a restaurant http://minnesota.publicradio.org/disp...


                                Here's an obit on the dad. Very sweet. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/twin...

                                More on the fam: http://www.mspmag.com/features/featur...

                                This book specifically says they DON"T make the onion rings year-round: http://books.google.com/books?id=sYuF...

                                Man, I really wish I'd tried these. Next year, for sure!


                                1. re: sheepy

                                  On our list for next year. My wife is an onion ring fiend, and I can't think of a food item that more persistently disappoints.

                        2. For a once a year experience, i really don't think the prices are that out of line. As another poster pointed out, you can bring your own food and beverages in. I usually throw a couple of bottles of water in my bag when I go. But I did see a number of vendors selling bottled water for $1.50. That doesn't seem that crazy or out of line to me. A bottle of soda at Target Field is $4.50 and you don't have the option of bringing your own. And speaking of Target Field, they started selling the Minneapple Pie this year as well. At Target Field it"s $7 plus $3 for ice cream. The same item with ice cream at the fair is $5. Also, a corn dog at the fair is $3. I know I can get a corn dog anywhere thoughout the year, but they are so much better at the fair. Freshly made and delicious. And cheese curds are more, $5 or $6, but honestly, who could eat an entire order? Most people go expecting to share. I don't feel like I spent that much money on food and I got plenty to eat and had a great time, both visits. I'm glad it only comes around once a year but I enjoy and look forward to my time there. As TDQ pointed out, there are tons of exhibits and displays. If you aren't seeing them then you aren't looking in the right places.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bobannon

                            Speaking of cheap food (and a lot of these aren't "junk" either):

                            Culligan water--FREE

                            Per City Pages, A BUCK OR LESS: http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2011/...

                            sno cones

                            salted peanuts in the shell

                            Mini bag of chocolate rocks OR mini bag of chocolate covered sunflower seeds

                            Apple Cider freeze

                            All you can drink milk

                            There's apparently a shrimp cocktail, too, but according to someone in the comments section, it's not worth even a dollar.

                            Also, Walmart was doing FREE fruit smoothies one of the days I was there.

                            Per the food finder (BUCK OR LESS):

                            Buck or Less: 12oz lemonade, ice tea or wedge of watermelon - $1 (andre's watermelon).

                            Buck or Less: 8 oz milk (white, chocolate or strawberry), 6 oz. yogurt cups (strawberry, peach or blueberry), 1 oz. cheesesticks (cheddar, mozzarella or co-jack) (dairy goodness bar).

                            Buck or less: 24 oz cup of popcorn - $1 (frontier bar--this is also where the salted peanuts are).

                            Buck or less: Vanilla or chocolate cow tales - two for $1 (i-candy sugar shop).

                            Buck or Less: Shrimp Cocktail

                            Buck or Less: Cider freeze, apple cider (MN apples).

                            Buck or Less: Ice cream cone - $1 (rainbow Ice cream).

                            Buck or less: Small popcorn - $1 (rainbow ice cream cone).

                            Finally, don't forget the Blue Ribbon discount book which gives you a couple a bucks off--there are some good ones in there, (Frappe!, Garlic fries! Footlong Beef corn dog--I don't actually know if it's good, but since it's one of the items the OP specifically mentioned as overpriced! Cinnamon Roasted Nuts! Dairy Barn Milk Shake! the aforementioned D&D onion rings! Crepes! French Meadow Scone! Fresh French Fries! Salem Lutheran Church! Tejas burrito or Guac and Chips! Thomasina's Cashew Nut Brittle! ), the "Thifty Thursday" deals, or the Kids/Seniors/Military appreciation day deals.

                            You can get discounted admission by buying your tickets in advance or going on one of the promotional "days" (kids/seniors/read and ride, etc.) http://www.mnstatefair.org/tickets_di...

                            Oh, those are just my annual "must-do" displays. There are a few I have in rotation for "every few" years, and then there are many more I've only done once, perhaps just by chance, and may never do again. There are some buildings I've never even been in. Some of MSPD and KTFoley's "must dos" are ones I've never done. (I have watched some of the horse stuff in the past and MSPD and I are both looking for our friends canning entrants). Really, there is so much to see.

                            I also want to point out that none of this is nostalgia for me. I'm not from here and I'm not from a place where attending state or county fairs is a big tradition. But, I've learned to appreciate the experience for what it is. I don't love everything about the fair, or even most things about the fair, but there are some very worthwhile things that keep me coming back twice every year. Some experiences are just what you make of them.

                            And, yes, the fair is family friendly. I suppose if you want to go to the fair when there are fewer kids, you could go late at night.


                            3910 W 50th St, Minneapolis, MN 55424

                          2. If you order this:

                            Trinidad Doubles from Harry Singhs
                            Cheese Curds
                            Sweet Corn Ice Cream

                            And Split this:

                            Australian Potatoes
                            Cream puffs
                            Walleye Cakes

                            You will be out $20-25, and will have had at least two meals worth of food.

                            If you make ridiculous decisions (NACHOS!!! I MUST HAVE NACHOS!!! $9 FOR NACHOS!!!) you will be ripped off.

                            1. Shocking? Hmmm - it must not take much to shock you. Me, I consider ticket prices for rock concerts and major sports events to be shocking. The State Fair, not so much.

                              This year, hubby and I went to the fair twice. Including admission, we spent exactly $62 each time (what are the odds of that?!?). Our first visit was on the first Thrifty Thursday, so it works out to $42 for food the first day, and $38 the second time. Yes, that's the cost of a cheap-to-moderately-priced dinner for the two of us, but I consider it money well spent.

                              For Day 1, here's what we ate:
                              1 corn dog for me (the only one I'll eat all year)
                              2 cones from the Dairy building (the hubs loves 'em - that's how I lure him to the fair)
                              2 scoops of wine ice cream (special Izzy's flavors available ONLY at the fair!)
                              FREE sample of kettle corn (could have grabbed more than one, but didn't)
                              1 salmon "chunk" with crackers, cream cheese, & raspberry sauce from Giggles
                              1 elk burger with the works (free onions and mushrooms) from Giggles
                              1 beer (Summit Pale Ale) from Giggles
                              2 roasted ears of corn
                              2 more cones from the Dairy building

                              For Day 2, here's the list:
                              1 turkey sandwich with brie and cranberry from Turkey To Go (OK, so I thought that the $1.50 for the extras was excessive, but it was a really good sandwich)
                              2 cones from the Dairy Building (yes, again!)
                              1 HUGE serving of Kushari from Holy Land (the reason why I went to the fair for the second time)
                              1 mint lemonade from Holy Land (LOOOOOVE this stuff, and it's not available at their restaurant)
                              2 roasted ears of corn
                              1 more corn dog for me (OK, so I'll only eat TWO corn dogs this year!)
                              1 dish of lingonberry ice cream

                              We each bring a bottle of water, which we refill often, so we don't have to pay for beverages (unless it's something I really want, like beer or mint lemonade). And we share almost everything except for the corn dog(s), roasted corn, and cones from the dairy building.

                              Besides, like TDQ, I consider fair food to be the fuel between the REAL goal of the fair. For me, it's the butter-head dairy princesses, the subversive seed art, the animal barns (love the chickens with feathery feet!), the Creative Activities building (did you SEE that stained-glass Dalek?!?), the DNR fish pond, each and every booth in the Education building (where I scored a free backpack-bag, several temporary tattoos, some paper fans, a fish fridge magnet, and a pic of my friend's son's sweepstakes-winning artwork), the Eco Experience (got tips for our bathroom remodel, plus met an awesome woman who's distributing solar-powered flashlights to refugees around the world), the fabulous parade (LOVE the art cars and bikes!), and of course the Fine Arts building (did anyone else see the statue "Pierogi Culture" and love it as much as I did?!?!?). Not to mention the world-class people watching and the opportunity to rack up tons of steps for my pedometer.

                              All in all, I think the Minnesota State Fair is a great value for the money. I wouldn't miss it for the world!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                "(did anyone else see the statue "Pierogi Culture" and love it as much as I did?!?!?)."

                                Yes and yes!

                                1. re: MSPD

                                  Yes. I believe Bolivian saltenas are missing. :)

                              2. Keep in mind that the fair keeps 15% of sales from all of the food vendors. This also pushes prices up, and is part of the reason the Girl Scout Cookies being sold this past weekend were $4.00 per box, rather than the usual $3.50.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Danny

                                  Plus charging them rent on the building if they have one, plus charging all the workers admission to the fair in order to work (which is then reimbursed by the employer if the employer has even the smallest vestige of a soul).

                                  I'm not surprised that fair food is that expensive, because the fair itself is busy gouging the vendors for every penny it can squeeze. Hell, I found out this year that the people who maintain the little gardens that are scattered around the fair grounds not only don't get paid, but have to supply their own stuff. Not just rakes and trowels, but all the plants and mulch as well. We're talking hundreds to thousands of dollars for even a modest little plot.

                                  What amazes me is that the fair gets so many people who are willing to not only work for free, but are willing to actually *pay* to work on the fair. I'd love to get a look at the organization's books some time, because someone is getting very rich off of the fair - and in most cases, it's not the food vendors.

                                2. Sorry, but not a very good argument here. There is no value at most high end steak places either. However, I still will occasionally go to Manny's or Cap Grill. Why? I can make a great steak at home!

                                  I go for the experience. I go because actually they can make a steak just a bit better than I really could at home. I get to be around people. I get to try a variety of sides and apps I don't usually have on a daily/monthly basis. I pay more than I want to, and certainly more than if I cooked them at home, but I have a wonderful time and feel like I've had a great experience in the end.

                                  You can substitute cheese curds or what not for the steak in the above paragraph. That is why I go eat at the fair.