Who says nothing ever changes at the Minnesota State Fair?
Why, it was just 105 years ago that the new grandstand opened at the fair. Now, that’s progress.
This year, though, there seems to be an unusual feeling of newness about the fair, which opens today and runs through Labor Day.
That’s in large part because of the opening of the new West End Market, billed as the largest construction project since the Works Progress Administration projects of the 1930s. The West End Market transforms a large part of the fairgrounds. Key features include:
—The Minnesota State Fair History & Heritage Center, a 3,500-square-foot hall telling the 150-year history of the fair. The exhibit was developed in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
— The Schilling Amphitheater, which will host free entertainment throughout the fair.
—The market itself, which will host food vendors and artisans, including some longtime fair favorites that were formerly located in now-demolished Heritage Square. Among the new eateries is the Blue Barn, a farm-to-table restaurant.
—The Transit Hub and historic streetcar arch. The new hub provides easy, safe access to park-and-ride and express buses, and the restored 1930s streetcar arch connects this new area of the fair with its past.
That’s a lot of change in one year for an institution as tradition friendly as the Minnesota State Fair. But there are other updates, tweaks and expansions this year.
—The Minnesota State Fair Horse Show now includes more breeds, more competitive events, and more demonstrations. It all takes place throughout the run of the fair in the Warner Coliseum and the AgStar Arena.
— The new Common Table, located in the Agriculture Horticulture Building, features, among other displays, an 80-foot Season Wall that depicts the year-round bounty of Minnesota.
— The University of Minnesota’s new Driven to Discover building, which will invite fair-goers to participate in dozens of university studies on topics ranging from genetics to bullying to distracted driving.