Ramsey County

The Great Minnesota Get-Together, 2017 edition

After Thanksgiving may seem like a strange time to post photos from the Minnesota State Fair, and I agree. A broken computer left me without my photos for almost three months, but I’m back now — so without further ado, here’s what I saw on the first Sunday of the 2017 fair.

one of the streets at the fairgrounds, packed with people, with the space needle in the distance

This pileup of ducklings was the cutest thing I saw:

more than a dozen fuzzy yellow ducklings crowded into the corner of their pen

We were at the right place at the right time to see a mini parade of horses:

two Clydesdales pulling a wooden trailer with two women in black formal dresses

The Hamline Dining Hall is always a good choice for a rest from the chaos, and this time it was a particularly inspired choice because it started pouring about 30 seconds after we walked in. I had the delicious Swedish wild rice meatballs and potatoes that were way salty. I mean, way, way, way too salty. My tray was a fun vintage version from Bonanza:

a white tray with a plate of three meatballs, white gravy, a roll, potatoes, a cup of coleslaw off to the left, and a glass of an iced purple beverage

I think it was required of all fairgoers to take a photo of the new ferris wheel, which we decided to ride after I claimed I would be disappointed to go home without doing that. It was fun but only went around one time!

the tall ferris wheel, at an angle at dusk so the colored lights are visible

While on a walking loop I needed to get a closer look at these papers, which turned out to be the results of the Milk Dash 5K run unceremoniously masking-taped to the side of the restroom building:

four pieces of 8.5x11 white paper with lots of words printed, all held to a brick building with lots of messy masking tape

This year we stopped into Monty’s Traveling Reptile Show for the first time, after talking about it every year:

closeup of a tank holding a water monitor at the front looking left, a sign reading the name Hydro and vital statistics such as 6-8 feet, 50-60 pounds

My favorite item in the Creative Activities building was this beautiful Danish bakery, with tiny details like having the building’s address be 2017…

corner view of a white stucco building with red accents, a white border fence, a Danish flag, red tablecloths on three patio tables

…and on the inside, many more perfect details such as pots in the cupboards, pies waiting for their top crusts, and the Scandinavian wedding cake that first caught my eye:

same building, showing one floor with a kitchen scene with an oven, wooden cupboards, cookies cooling on the stove, dough rising in a bowl, and a baker behind the counter

Runner-up favorite item: this “pixellated” quilt of Minnesota roadside attractions, such as Paul and Babe in Bemidji, and the big loon in Vergas:

closeup of the two scenes that look like pixellated Polaroid photos with handwriting descriptions

There was plenty of topical seed art, as usual, such as the changing of the name of Lake Calhoun back to its Dakota name:

framed artwork of a lake with lettering that says Bde Maka Ska

and the eclipse, which had just happened at this point:

a long, short framed artwork with a three versions of the eclipse, including a ring in the center, and August 21, 2017 at the bottom

I won’t include a photo of the wall of honey jars, like I usually do, though it remains my favorite spot at the fair. Instead, given that the holidays are coming, I’ll end on two Christmas photos:

the tree room

many different types of Christmas trees with award ribbons

and fancy decorated cookies.

a display of 14 cookies on sticks, such as a reindeer portrait, a white star on a red background, four decorated trees, and a winter version of the Spoonbridge and Cherry

More from the fair

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Capitol M

Many letter “M”s are scattered throughout the Minnesota State Capitol. Here are the ones I’ve found so far.

To the right of the front doors:

carved in stone above a door

On the ceiling in the House of Representatives Chamber:

stencil of a yellow M within the fancy, flowery hat above a small face

In a lunette:

script M painted on a black stone surrounded by olive branches

In the railing:

cipher surrounded by a circle in the middle of a fancy metal railing

Gold M in the Governor’s Reception Room…

small M surrounded by a sideways oval, then by three rectangles, each with lots of fancy embellishments

…and in the same room, a gold M in the curtain:

script gold cloth surrounded by a circle of gold oak leaves, surrounded by a rectangle of leaves, on a maroon velvet(?) curtain above a window

Is this an M in the fireplace grate behind the governor’s podium? I guess not quite.

two curls leaning together, like a script M but without the middle

The Star of the North in the rotunda…

looking down at the floor with a gold, 8-pointed star surrounded by 3 circles and a larger 8-pointed star

…is made up of M’s when turned to the side:

looking down again, from a couple feet over so there are two points up, two each to the left and right, and two points down; each point is the left half of an M AND the right half of another M

Zoomed in, you can see the big pink M, with the smaller gold M below:

close up to focus on the large M facing the correct way

In the four corners of former governor Arne Carlson’s portrait frame:

the University of Minnesota's M logo from the bottom left corner of the frame

More about the capitol

I helped build the MNHS capitol website, so I’m a little proud of that link.

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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

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