State Fair: Everything you need to know for this year's Get-Together

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The Great Minnesota Get-Together starts Thursday – and there are a lot of new goodies at this year's fair.

Among the new attractions and food choices, the State Fairgrounds also got a $15 million overhaul, which redesigned the west end of the fair, adding a new transit hub and replaced Heritage Square.

“There are two things people hate: change and the way things are,” State Fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette told the Star Tribune. “This is where the new fair meets the nostalgic fair.”

Here's the lowdown on everything you need to know about this year's fair:

New History and Heritage Center

The Minnesota State Fair is about tradition, which has some people wary about the changes to the fairgrounds, especially replacing Heritage Square with the new History and Heritage Center where Heritage Square used to be.

"I liked it exactly how it was," Linda Koutsky, who co-authored a book on the State Fair's history with her mother, told the Pioneer Press. "I liked the train, the old buildings, the blacksmith shop."

Photos and artifacts have been displayed at the State Fair's old depot and train cars in Heritage Square for years, but now they'll be housed in the new History and Heritage Center – but don't worry, the old depot and train cars are still there.

The former North St. Paul Depot, the Royal American Carnival train cars and the log cabin are now exhibits themselves outside the History and Heritage Center, located right near the West End Transit Hub, the Pioneer Press reports.

Among the items on display at the History and Heritage Center are old photographs depicting the fair from years ago. Many of the pictures on display were donated by fairgoers over the years, organizers say, but didn't come with any identifying information.

"If there's a name on it, it's because they scorched the earth to get a name," Terry Scheller, a Minnesota Historical Society graphic specialist who worked on the exhibit's design team, told the Pioneer Press. "If there's not a name, it's because they could not find the name. ... They just get lost over time."

Tracking down the names can be tough, so Scheller is hoping people who go to the fair this year will recognize the unnamed subjects in the photos so she can update the captions for next year, the newspaper says.

The Pioneer Press has some of the photos that need names. Click here to view them. If someone looks familiar, send an email to fairinfo@mnstatefair.org.

What's new

Along with the new History and Heritage Center and the West End Transit Hub (details below), the fair is offering several other new attractions, exhibits, competitions, and of course new food choices.

This year there are eight new carnival rides including ones called Crazy Dance, Hurricane, and the Stinger.

Nearly 30 foods have been added to the State Fair's list of more than 450 options. Among the new foods: chocolate dessert salami, pretzel curds, and a bacon wrapped turkey leg.

The State Fair grandstand shows will feature 11 nights of entertainment, including Toby Keith, Kid Rock and Aretha Franklin. There are also over 900 entertainment shows included with the price of admission.

Other attractions include a 5K milk run on Sunday Aug. 24, extreme canines stunt dog show, changes to the horse show and possibly the world's largest wad of paper.

Tickets and discounts

The State Fair has raised admission prices by a dollar this year – it costs $13 for adults and $11 for kids and seniors, but pre-fair discounts on admission tickets, ride and game tickets and the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book are available through Wednesday at Cub Foods and the State Fairgrounds ticket office.

The Blue Ribbon Bargain Book has more coupons than ever in this year’s edition. If anybody used them all, they’d save more than $900, the fair says. What’s more, the price of the book did not go up this year – $4 in advance, $5 at the fair.

The 12-day fair runs from Thursday Aug. 21 through Labor Day (Sept. 1). The fairgrounds are open from 6 a.m. to midnight (10 p.m. on Labor Day), and guests are able to enter the outside gates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (9 p.m. on Labor Day). Click here for information on when specific buildings and attractions open.

Getting there

Getting to the fair is expected to be easier this year. There are 53 places fairgoers can park their cars for free, hop on a bus and go straight to the fair, Schuette told KSTP.

About 80 percent of those taking a bus to the fair will be dropped off at the new West End Transit Hub, which will be the largest single entrance to the annual get-together. The new hub is also expected to give bus riders speedier access into the fair and ease traffic on Snelling Avenue, where buses and other fair traffic have traditionally caused a big headache for drivers and neighborhood residents.

The makeover to the West End also includes a restaurant with the fair's first rooftop patio with a view of the Midway, the History and Heritage Center, amphitheater for "intimate sets of free music" and entertainment, a market with dozens of artisans, craftspeople and specialty merchants, new foods and old favorites – and plenty of restroom space.

For more information on how to get to the fair, including parking, details on bus routes and how to avoid construction, click here.

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Fun facts

  • The State Fair is the largest 12-day event in North America, which attracts nearly 1.8 million visitors annually.
  • An overall attendance record was set in 2009 when 1,790,497 people attended the fair.
  • The fair is the third-largest event in the U.S. and the second largest state fair in the country.
  • The fairgrounds cover 320 acres.
  • The first airplane flight in Minnesota history took place at the fair in 1910.
  • The first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859, and it has been held at its present location since 1885.
  • "Daylight fireworks" debuted at the State Fair in 1898.

For more trivia and fun facts, click here.

State Fair weather preview

The Great Minnesota Get Together begins this Thursday, and the weather is looking like it may be sticky and rainy for the fair's opening day.

The National Weather Service says there is a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms Thursday morning, but it's expected to become mostly sunny, with a high near 83 degrees in the afternoon.

MPR News’ Updraft blog says weather charts are also favoring 90 degrees and “stuffy dew points” for the start of the fair this year.

The State Climatology Office looked at the history of weather at the fair from 1885 (when its current location was established) to 2013. The report shows, on average, it only rains about three to four days during the fair's 12 day run – the wettest fair was in 1977, when 9.48 inches of rain fell.

Last year was the third-warmest State Fair in history, with an average temperature of 88.2 degrees and there were also six 90-degree days, which is the most on record, the State Climatology Office says.

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