My family and I are huge fans of the Minnesota State Fair, which runs Aug. 27–Sept. 7. You can blindfold me in any corner of the fairgrounds, spin me ’round and ’round, and I will still be able to tell you where the nearest Pronto Pup booth is.
My daughter and I go most weekdays, often with friends in tow who rely on our expertise to steer them through the throngs of visitors in search of the cleanest restroom. We are such big fans that we are members of the Minnesota State Fair Foundation.
The foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 to support continual improvements and to preserve the history of the Minnesota Great Get-Together, raises funds partially through its Friends of the Fair program. The Friends of the Fair program has annual membership levels ranging from $25 to $2,500, each with its own set of rewards and benefits.
All levels of the program receive a Friend of the Fair ribbon and pin, a free Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, discounts at the State FairWear gift shops and access to the J.V. Bailey House during the fair. The Bailey House, a majestic yellow farm house on the corner on Cooper Street and Judson Avenue, houses the foundation offices year-round, but during the fair donors and Friends of the Fair can stop by for ice cold water, coffee and treats, and enjoy an air-conditioned respite from the crowds.
In addition, Friends of the Fair and other donors are invited to Taste of the Fair, an invite-only event held one week prior to opening day. Taste of the Fair attendees enjoy food and beverages from new vendors as well as iconic fair favorites, games from the Mighty Midway and live music. Revelers even get free rides on the Space Tower so they can spot their house before anyone else.
Some membership levels include free admission tickets to the fair and preferred access to seating at Grandstand shows. Higher-level memberships include personalized recognition on bricks, benches or even tables on the fairgrounds.
High on my husband’s bucket list is his own personalized State Fair bench. He jokes that having his name engraved on the back of a bench means he can evict anyone seated on it and use it at his discretion. He is wrong, of course. The benches are available to any and all tired souls. But who am I to take away his dream?
Alex Lodner is a freelance writer who lives in the Como Park neighborhood. This week, you can find her somewhere at the fairgrounds steering friends to the closest, cleanest restroom.