Words of Whimsy

Minnesota State Fair Preview! Family Food and Fun, Part 2:

Sandbox1For many of us, eating is the main sport/attraction at the Minnesota State Fair. I already shared my top 3 picks for new fair food from the Great Minnesota Blog Together preview event, and you can bet I’m already making my list (literally – so I don’t miss anything!) for the 2015 Fair that is coming up quickly. But in between bites, the Fair actually has an awful lot of other sights and sounds for families to take in – here are my three favorite family-friendly non-food things coming to the Minnesota State Fair in 2015 :

#1: SunscreenSunhats
I’m pretty pale, my husband is pale, and Miss P is too. I’ve had a few struggles with sun damage and it’s always on our mind – we’ve had to leave outdoor events after forgetting sunscreen or losing hats – and we have a LOT of sunhats. I’ve seen more than a few people get completely cooked at the Great Minnesota Get Together, so I’m SUPER excited and proud that the Minnesota State Fair will soon feature FREE sunscreen! I’m told there will be large pumps at every information station with sunscreen on demand. This is in no way meant to disuade you from wearing your own sunscreen (remember, most agree it’s more effective if you apply BEFORE you go out in the sun), but it’s pretty great to know you can easily re-apply or touch up missed spots throughout the fair. And FREE! No $15 gas station sunscreen needed.

#2: Giant Sandboxsandbox2

I learned at the Great Minnesota Blog Together preview event that not all parents know this little gem exists – while I’ll admit, part of me is tempted to keep it all to myself, the amount of glee it has brought Miss P over the years (and my general magnanimous nature, of course) has led me to share. Tucked under some nice shady trees across from the Fine Arts building is a huge sandbox, ringed by picket fence on 3 sides and facing out on the 4th towards a little seating area for mom/dad/etc to relax and cool off while their littles dig and sculpt and sift in the cool sand.

sandbox3Unlike so many “kid attractions”, this was clearly designed by someone who has actually taken kids out in the world – the sandbox is basically a stage, and the only “escape” is through the parent seating area, so even hover-y parents like myself can actually sit down and chill out a little. I suggest getting a snack on your way, since you might be there a very long while. One year we visited 12x. My only wish would be for even more seating – perhaps replace the tables with just row upon row of chairs, so all can partake? The sand toys do tend to disappear as the fair goes on, and occasionally you have to fish an old food container out of someone’s hand, but in general it’s a cool, calm, relaxing oasis for young kids unlike anything else at the fair. On some days there is even a piano player.

#3: Scare Crow Competition

I’ve participated in the fair in almost every way you can, and one of my favorites is as a competitor! Do you know how many competitions the Minnesota State Fair hosts?!?! There are books upon books of different things you can enter, and generally they do NOT require any previous entry at a local or county fair – a common misconception. Over the years I’ve entered baked goods (not my strength), scrapbook pages, wrapping paper designs, masks, and my favorite (and biggest winner) – a scarecrow! Found in the Ag-Hort-Bee premium booklet, it’s too late to enter this year’s competition (registration usually ends in early August) but you can view the 2015 entries in the Crop Art wing of the Hort building. The range of scarecrows is always fun to see, from modern/minimal/functional designs that actually frighten away birds, to colorful characters that seem more like friends to the fowl, it’s on my list every year. And you can get some inspiration for next year! Entering a scarecrow in the fair is an AWESOME thing to do as a family. There are divisions for youth alone, or “team”, as well as solo adults. My amazing premium ribbon scarecrow was an 8′ re-creation of Jafar, the villain from Aladdin, when I was a high schooler. Sadly, I’m not sure any photos exist, but the head stuck around my parent’s house for many years, and it was probably one of my most fun art projects ever.

So, these are the top 3 family-friendly non-food elements I’m looking forward to of the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. Big thanks to the fair and many of their vendors for taking the time to preview some of the 2015 offerings for myself and other bloggers – you can check out some other Minnesota voices discussing the 12 Best Days of Summer here, here, and here, and DEFINITELY check out Echo (Mad Mommy’s) post and HUGE STATE FAIR GIVEAWAY here!

Don’t forget to play today! ~Heather