Ramsey County

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2016 edition

Good gravy, how is the Minnesota State Fair already over? It’s not that the summer went too fast, it’s just that the end is always a surprise.

looking south at a sea of people near the Midway

It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time – and it was not so long ago – that I hated the fair and refused to go. This year, not only did I go twice, but I even considered going another time, by myself.

demonstration with a raptor outside the DNR

My husband and I went on the second day but it was more or less a work trip, to do the history walking tour (which is co-sponsored by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and my employer, the Minnesota Historical Society). We saw things like the J.V. Bailey House:

Stop 6, a yellow house on the fairgrounds

…and the horse barn:

Stop 3, built by the Works Progress Administration

More than an hour later, we had punched all 12 stops:

worn brochure lying on the ground

We went late in the afternoon and it got dark quickly; we saw the fireworks from the bus.

fireworks in the distance, framed by metal window sills

Our second trip was on the second-to-last day, with my sister and her husband.

people outside the entrance

Favorite foods:

blueberry coffee cake ice cream bar (bad photo from inside the Farmers Union building):

faintly purple ice cream on a stick

buffalo Minnekabob (horrible photo from inside the food building):

meat and onions on a stick, wrapped in aluminum foil

My sister had never tried Sweet Martha’s cookies (!!) so we had to remedy that:

a paper cone overflowing with chocolate chip cookies

Someone lost a cookie:

flattened cookie on the pavement

Other food tried by the four of us over two trips: blueberry malt from the Dairy Building (good as always), Minnesota corn dog (not my favorite), bang bang chicken (too spicy for my bland palate but everyone else thought this was wonderful), cheese curds (always delicious), crab fritters (tasty), fried ravioli (meh), deep fried olives (I didn’t try this), pineapple Dole Whip (good), apple dumpling (good), super stick of deep-fried pizza (I didn’t try this), and chicken parm sandwich (yum).

Other stuff

There’s much more to see and do besides eat, like visit the Minnesota Newspaper Museum:

Miehle Press machine

We were determined to participate in the Giant Sing-Along but got there during “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – which wasn’t a very inspiring pick, to be honest. We sing it at every baseball game! But we gamely (heh) sang along.

list of all the songs that rotate during the fair

The giant pumpkins:

two big bright orange pumpkins in front of a lighter orange pumpkin and a greenish pumpkin

Award-winning baked goods:

ethnic foods such as rosettes, lefse, krumkake, almond kringler, and more

Seed art:

monarch butterfly and black-eyed susans created from seeds

Lots and lots of people and animals – an attendance record, which doesn’t surprise me:

a woman walking a horse down a crowded street, with the Sky Flyer swings in the distance

Leftover items that didn’t get done from the 2015 visit – how did we do?

  • River Raft ride (didn’t come up this year)
  • Sing at the giant sing-along (yes)
  • Education building and the MNHS booth (yes)
  • Newspaper museum (yes)
  • Reptile show (no – think this one will be removed)
  • Dole Whip (yes)
  • Brown butter ice cream at Hamline dining hall (not available)
  • Key lime pie on a stick (no)
  • Puffcorn ice cream (not available)
  • Nitro ice cream (no)
  • Minnekabob (yes)

So, pretty good. See you at the fair next year.

exit gates with message - Thank you for visiting the Minnesota State Fairgrounds

More from the fair

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Purple

Since the sudden and surprising death of Minnesota’s own Prince just over a week ago, several public displays have been created by fans around the Twin Cities. We visited two of the memorial sites on Friday.

Flowers and notes and lots of purple balloons left near his star at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, which was relatively quiet at noon:

a long pile of flower bouquets and partially deflated balloons on the ground under the black brick wall with silver stars

More people were visiting and leaving purple mementos at Paisley Park, his home and studio in Chanhassen:

fans taking pictures and viewing items tied to a fence surrounding a white two-story building

Many signs read “Rest In Purple”:

flower bouquets and a purple t-shirt near a paper sign that says Rest In Purple Sweet Prince

…or “Purple Reign”:

handwritten note: Your purple reign will not be forgotten, next to a hanging basket of purple pansies

Fans signing memorial posters:

long white poster with a large image of Prince and his symbol in the middle, covered in handwritten notes

An artist painting:

a man in a striped shirt painting on a canvas right next to the fence

A dove crying:

square painting of a dove with a heart eye and a teardrop, with purple raindrops all around

Lots of versions of his symbol:

large posterboard with his symbol in flowers of various shades of purple

The most creative item we saw:

a purple sled with the words Happy sledding Prince What a ride you took us on

There were also many notes written in chalk in the tunnel between the parking lot and Paisley Park:

Sign o' the times - our own Mozart, our own brother, and other handwritten notes

The first mention I’ve seen of Arms of Orion, my favorite Prince song:

Arms of Orion written in light lavender chalk, and other handwritten notes

The Minnesota Historical Society has Prince’s Purple Rain suit in its collection, and it was brought out for a mini-exhibit at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul that started the day after he died:

the suit in a protected box with an interpretive sign, and a large posterboard on the wall at the right with many Post-it notes

A board with the words “I Remember Prince” was quickly covered by Post-It notes:

so many sticky notes on the board and the wall around the board that the word prompt is covered

I work at the History Center and every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I visit the board to see what people have written. Many sentimental notes, many thankful notes, and some amusingly honest:

My favorite memory of Prince: Late in the Minnesota Lynx’s run to the WNBA championship last year, we started noticing that he is a fan of the team. He tweeted after Maya Moore hit the game-winning shot in Game 3. Two games later at Target Center, it was like a game of telephone tag as word spread through the crowd and the gameday crew that he was in a suite, though I didn’t see him. And then, after the title was won, he invited the players to a three-hour private concert at Paisley Park in the middle of the night.

Categories: Carver County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County | Leave a comment

Christmas decoration road trips

I love road trips in December because of the vintage Christmas decorations in small-town Minnesota. This year I took two trips just to see the lights – the first heading west along Highway 12 to Dassel, then north to 55 back to the Twin Cities (though it was too dark for pictures for the journey back), and the second south on 35 to Owatonna, back to Faribault, and then west to Waterville and New Prague. These were my favorites from the adventures (along with a couple extra photos from shorter trips).

My new favorite scene is in Montgomery, a city that celebrates its Czech heritage. These 3-D Christmas trees are paired with a blue banner that says “Peace” and “Joy” in both English and Czech.

tree decoration with a banner that says Pokoj Radost

The town also has two other styles:

garland and an antique streetlight, and a wreath with three red candles

Its neighbor, Lonsdale, has many design variations on the Season’s Greetings lights.

three drawings on white oval lights surrounded by garland

Antique street lights share a pole with the regular city spirit banners in Delano:

Share the Road with Bicycles banner next to a streetlight hanging from garland

Owatonna’s Central Park has trees in each corner, including a picturesque spot across from the historic National Farmers’ Bank:

tall tree with a gold tinsel star, in front of the historic bank, and a lightpole with garland and a wreath

Snowflakes in Northfield:

blue Welcome to Northfield banner next to a white snowflake

Simple wreaths in North St. Paul:

wreath on the left side of a lamppost with two lights

New Prague has candle wreaths like many other towns, and this jeweler added its own tree:

wreath on a utility pole next to Marquardt Jewelers sign with a tree made from green light strings

Grocery stores are painting their windows in New Prague…

painted words The Simple Joy of Food with painted cookies

…and Farmington:

painting of two elves and a skating snowman

Garland crossing the intersections in Cannon Falls:

four garland strands at the street corners, meeting at a wreath in the middle

Cannon Falls also has wreaths on its lampposts – an effect that is somewhat muppet-like when viewed up close:

two light bulbs with dead bugs that look like eyes above a large narrow wreath that looks like an open mouth

Snowflakes on lampposts that look like candles in Faribault:

white snowflake decoration on a light pole wrapped with red tinsel

This was the second time I drove through Morristown and Waterville, and I have a hard time keeping their names straight. I can remember the “Morris” and “Water” but never remember which is a town and which is a ville, so I usually end up saying Morrisville and Watertown. I reached these two just as the last light was fading, and the snowflakes were blinking on in Morristown:

lighted snowflake on a pole in front of a business with lighted decorations in the windows

Shooting stars in Waterville:

lighted star decorations on both sides of a quiet street

Skinny wire in Medford:

candle and Christmas tree

A variety in Rockford, including curly trees I haven’t seen anywhere else:

lighted set of bells, reindeer, and curly tree one one side of a busy street

Darwin had the most shapes of one style of decoration – in this case, white wire.

white wire shapes - snowman, angel, bells, candle, shooting star, horn, wreath

Waverly has two styles, the white-wire along Highway 12…

Welcome to Waverly banner with a dove, and a bell

…and “tinsel” style on Main Street.

colorful tinsel - candle, white snowflake with blue lights, a triangle-shaped tree, and a three-tiered tree

Montrose wins my Most Variety Award for 2015. Many different banners and tinsel shapes along Highway 12, snowflakes on the south side of County Road 12…

Peace banner, Season's Greetings oval, white wire snowflake, tinsel candles, candy cane, and tree

…and my second-favorite of the season, these ornate vintage street lights on the north side of County 12.

red streetlight circled twice by garland, more swirled above, Happy Holidays sign hanging on bottom

Other small-town Christmas trips

Categories: Dakota County, Goodhue County, Le Sueur County, Ramsey County, Rice County, Steele County, Washington County, Wright County | Leave a comment

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2015 edition

This year, I went to the Minnesota State Fair twice: on opening day with two friends to celebrate a milestone birthday, and another time with my husband, my sister, and her husband. The first day featured wonderful weather – not-too-hot, not humid, with a breeze. The second time was right after a rainstorm with more rain to come, followed by uncomfortable humidity. These photos combine the two trips.

street crowded with people and a trolley from curb to curb

Last year I did the Giant Slide for the first time, and this year it was the Space Tower. It spun fast as it climbed and descended and I got a *little* bit of motion sickness, but it was my favorite activity this year. A neat look at my favorite building, Agriculture Horticulture:

octagonal building with spokes on the roof leading to each door

I don’t usually get all the way to the north side of the fair, but this year we stopped briefly at the Giant Sing-Along and thought it would be fun to participate (from afar – next time it will be at a mic).

people at microphones with lyrics to Dancing Queen

Waited for a friend in the International Bazaar, where we listened to a steel drum band play not Kokomo, but Call Me Maybe.

The new Math on-a-Stick section, which my math-teacher sister was excited to see:

the hands of kids playing at an activity table

On my second trip we got to the fair incredibly early (my words) to catch the History-on-a-Schtick performance by the Minnesota Historical Society, where I work. I thought it was charming, especially the 10,000 Lakes Polka, which attempted to name every lake in the state (they soon realized it would take forever).

three singers wearing life jackets

If you get to the fair early enough, there’s no waiting at Sweet Martha’s:

several open lines

We ducked into a barn more than once to avoid the rain:

a sheep and five lambs

Apparently this needs to be said…?

Sign: Please do not put your fingers in the mouths of the donkeys.

Also ducked into the Coliseum, where I was surprised to enjoy the barrel racing:

a horse and rider making a sharp turn around a barrel

My favorite food of the fair is not a new food, but it was a first for me: fudge puppies, which are waffles dipped in chocolate and covered in whipped cream. This is what I will make next year when my office has a fair-food contest.

Other food we shared:

Super Stick from Spaghetti Eddie’s – basically a cheese-and-pepperoni-filled breadstick that’s been fried (would have been better as a regular breadstick):

Hotdish-on-a-stick (I was expecting more hotdish, less cornbread):

looks and tastes like a corndog

Deep-fried green olives (I didn’t even try this because I don’t like olives or cream cheese, but everyone else thought this was great):

deep fried olives stand

Minneapple pie with cinnamon ice cream (delicious):

two people sharing a pie

and tipsy pie (tasted like regular pie):

a round pie drizzled with honey

Not pictured from the two trips: my friend’s first Pronto Pup, walleye cakes and stuffed mushrooms from Giggles, cheese curds from the Mouth Trap (plenty for two people to share), a meatball sub from Spaghetti Eddie’s (really good for lunch the next day), French fries, Swedish meatballs-on-a-stick from Lynne’s Lefse (good), fried green tomatoes (highly rated by the others), Gizmo (meh), a couple of special beers (not mine).

We also looked at a lot of food that we couldn’t eat in the Creative Arts building, like award-winning pies…

jellies…

and cookies.

several entries in the snickerdoodles contest

My trip to the fair is never complete without a visit to the honey room:

honey jars with a painting of a beekeeper in the background

…and a look at all the vegetables lined up. I was particularly interested in the kohlrabi since we are growing a lot of it this year:

individual trays of kohlrabi, horseradish, cucumbers, and more

Things at least one person wanted to do but we didn’t get to – save this list for next year:

  • River Raft ride (I couldn’t convince anyone to go with me)
  • Education building and the MNHS booth
  • Newspaper museum
  • Reptile show
  • Dole Whip
  • Brown butter ice cream at Hamline dining hall
  • Key lime pie on a stick
  • Puffcorn ice cream
  • Nitro ice cream
  • Minnekabob

More from the Minnesota State Fair:

Categories: Ramsey County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Winter in MSP

Before the snow completely melts, I should recap some of our winter adventures in the Twin Cities.

One Saturday in January we planned two outdoor stops in Minneapolis. First up, a kite festival on Lake Harriet. This “dangerous ice” sign didn’t stop anyone.

Sign: Keep off. Dangerous. Ice not safe.

There were many kites and hundreds of spectators. I managed to avoid a crash-landing kite at the last second.

Hundreds of people and several flying kites

After we’d had enough of the kites, we drove east to Minnehaha Falls, but we got distracted by all the cars near Lake Nokomis and then remembered the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. We reached the rinks on the middle of the frozen lake just as time expired for the day, but still got to see some action because this game needed overtime…

Hockey puck between two players in front of the goal

…and then needed a shootout to determine a winner.

One team celebrating while the other skates off the ice

Then on to the frozen Minnehaha Falls – essentially a must-do winter activity:

Light blue, frozen Minnehaha Falls with many people standing at the base

Later in the season our sights switched to St. Paul and the Winter Carnival, which kicked off with the Crashed Ice downhill skating (not skiing) race. I took some time over a lunch break to watch practice near the Cathedral one afternoon before the competition began:

A skater at the top of the course in front of the Cathedral

Maybe half of the competitors were able to stay upright throughout the course’s ups and downs and jumps.

A skater coming off a jump after a short incline

Then we went back to downtown St. Paul one very chilly weeknight to see the carnival itself. It seemed that the excitement must happen on the weekend because there were so few people, but that meant we were able to get up-close to the ice sculptures in Rice Park. This was the only sculpture we noticed still standing after the warm first weekend of the carnival:

Ice sculpture: bear with fish and penguins

There was a broomball game on the ice rink next to the candle on the Lawson Commons building:

A player swinging at a ball with two defenders

We also headed over to the state fairgrounds to see the snow sculptures:

Snow carving of the Winter Carnival logo, with colorful lighted sculptures in the background

 

More photos

Categories: Hennepin County, Ramsey County | Tags: | Leave a comment

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