MN State Fair 2016 Preview – Shop and Nosh

Just one week from today is the start of the 2016 MN State Fair – or as I like to say, Christmas! Earlier this week I had a chance to attend the Great MN Blog Together Blogger preview event for the second year in a row and I’m super excited to share with you some great new eats and also give you a glance of some awesome shopping opportunities that await you this year! Let’s start with the food, cause I know that’s how we start our day the minute we get in the gates, we beeline to a food line.

We had an opportunity to sample six new foods. The majority of the items we tried were on the savory side, which is something both my anti-sweets husband and son will appreciate!


First was the Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread from the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. This was like French Onion soup meets a giant, delicious piece of bread. It is also reminiscent of a French Dip sandwich.  If it was a chilly day at the Fair (don’t laugh, it could happen) this would be a great treat to eat and warm up. I would definitely recommend sharing this, it’s pretty filling!


Next was my new favorite, Grilled Cheese Bites from O’Gara’s at the Fair. OMG. They took white cheddar cheese, stuffed it into bread, put it in beer batter and deep fried it, then cut into bites, skewered them onto a stick and serve it to you with a Bloody Mary Marinara Mix. Delicious. I will be going for these this year and if there is marinara mix left, we’ll use that to dip our cheese curds in as well. Yum. ALL THE CHEESE!


Minnesnowii Shave Ice has been vending at the Fair for a couple of years, but this year is stepping up their flavor game. They’re adding a sweetened condensed milk glaze over the top of your ice, which gives it a nice Icee meets Ice Cream feel. They’ve also added a flavor that I was skeptical of, but pleasantly surprised – Maple Bacon. It’s sweet and savory all in one. Great for a hot day!


Gass Station Grill has a unique take on the classic corn dog this year and I think my kiddo is going to be a fan – the Minnesota Corn Dog. It’s a breakfast sausage on a stick made with blueberries, apples, wild rice and maple syrup and then deep fried in corndog batter. It’s quite tasty and Ollie loves breakfast sausage and corn dogs, so I think he’ll be a fan!


French Meadow Cafe and Bakery is offering a Rustic Beef Pastry that reminded me of a flatbread pizza, but in puff pastry form. The pastry is flaky and wonderful and the meat, spinach and goat cheese on top is a lovely combination.  I really enjoyed this, the piece that you’ll get will be quite large, so definitely plan to share this one.


Last up is a new vendor to the Fair this year, but not one that’s new to me. The Tot Boss Food Truck will be having a booth at the fair this year.  Their tots are fantastic and they have lots of fun combinations including poutine, nachos and bacon loaded tots. My tot loving child will be excited as it looks like Tot Boss will be conveinently located near the Kidway.

Once you’re full up on all that glorious new food, you might want to indulge in another way and do some shopping!  We had a chance to talk with Pam Nelson, who is the Vendor Coordinator for the Fair and she gave us a great presentation highlighting all the shopping opportunities at the Fair. You could easily get all your Christmas shopping done if you planned things just right. Pam talked about how the Fairgrounds is kind of divided into several unique “neighborhoods” and if you’re willing to look you can find anything from clothes, toys, books, home goods and furnishings, home improvement items, pet gear to larger items such as cars, home appliances and so much more. We heard from four different shopping vendors about the unique items they bring to the Fair and after listening to them I think I’ll be bringing a little extra money with me!


The Holly House Boutique is a super cute local shop that will have a stall in the 2nd floor of the Grandstand in a special new “local boutique” corner. Holly House has some delightful home decor, fun personalized gift ideas and other unique kitchy things. Her prices on average are around $24-$32, but she has things as low as $1.99 and as high as $199. I have my eye on some super cute tea towels with very fun sayings on them! She also has an adorable Christmas picture you can have personalized with family names.  Very sweet!


I have been following WISH Boutique on social media for a couple of years now but have never made it to their brick and mortar store in Rosemount, MN because I’d have to pack a lunch (I kid, but it is a trek). I’m so excited they will be part of the new boutique corner in the Grandstand because I pretty much need one of their Mama Needs a Cocktail shirts. And they have fun beer themed shirts for guys, so maybe I’ll even convince Nate to stop up there with me!


My favorite local shop i like you (not a typo, they spell it lower case) has been representing at the Fair for a few years now and I always stop by their booth in West End Market because they offer a great coupon in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book on their t-shirts (See my friend Emily’s blog for a chance to win a Blue Ribbon Bargain Book!) At the blog event they said they like to “make Minnesotans look better one t-shirt at a time.” Prices range from $3 to $44 and 55% of their sales go back to the artist community that consign with them. They are very community and local oriented and are a great business to support.


The next vendor we heard from was so sweet she almost made me cry.  Heidi Grika was representing Birchberry Native Arts and Food. She brings items from the White Earth Tribe and said she just feels so honored to be a part of the fair. She had the most amazing handmade coat and adorable baby moccasins. They also have wild rice and maple syrup and Native American herbal tea among other things. They’re located at the Southwest section of the International Baazar.

The last vendor wasn’t with us in person but called in via conference call and had the neatest story. Machine Age Lamps was started by Shawn Carling after he lost his job at Best Buy and then decided to follow a dream. He makes amazing lamps, industrial tables and steampunk art light fixtures – all from early American factory parts that he salvaged, most of which came from old Minnesota companies. The items he makes are so unique and you can hear his passion when he speaks. He made sure to mention that they will help you move the item to your car at the end of your Fair day or you can ask to have it shipped. They’re located in the southeast section of West End Market and are not to be missed!

Well I don’t know about you, but between all that food and shopping, we’ve put in a pretty full day at the Fair. Maybe time to head home for a nap! But, if you’re still itching for more Fair Fun, here are some posts from some of the other bloggers that were at the event this week. Next week Jen and I will have a family oriented post on North Star Unicorn as well. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Stacie Ray

More than Just Dessert (also mentioned above – don’t forget she has a giveaway!)

Family Fun Twin Cities (also featuring a giveaway!)

Rachel In the Cities (from MN Community on Instagram)

Minnemama Adventures

Check back, I’ll add more links as more blogs are updated!


5 thoughts on “MN State Fair 2016 Preview – Shop and Nosh

  1. Oh boy I’m drooling over here!! I love fair food, and those grilled cheese bites sound WONDERFUL. So does that beef/goat cheese pastry thing…mmm. Your’e making me want to go to our state fair too! It’s next month in my husband’s hometown–we may have to go!

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