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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.

Turkey legs, pickle pizza and fried alligator: The state fair is back

In Minnesota, people come far and wide every year to worship at the altar of fried foods

Scenes from the Minnesota State Fair. (Photos by Linnea Bullion for The Washington Post)
1 min

The Minnesota State Fair is known for “everything on a stick” — from alligator to Key lime pie. Marking the bittersweet end of summer, the annual event boasts an impressive breadth of these once-a-year foods. So many of them are fried that one can stomach them only once a year, anyway.

In 2019, more than 2 million visitors over 12 days attended the fair in St. Paul — a tradition for many out-of-state visitors as well as for Minnesotans. Though the fair is typically one of the largest in the country, the 2021 event felt like a soft return, with almost half the usual number of visitors attending. But this year, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, the beloved event is back in full swing.

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Growing up in Minnesota, I spent my summers looking forward to the state fair — and still do. Despite now living 2,000 miles away, I pilgrimage to the fair each year. For me, it’s more about people-watching and petting cows than the fried food. That’s the beauty of it: there are dozens of ways to enjoy it.

In 2020, when it was canceled, I sat on my couch in Los Angeles eating corn dogs from the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store and put on a video walk-through of the fair on YouTube. There’s some debate on which is the “best” state fair in the country, but I try not to get bogged down by minutiae. Every out-of-state visitor I photographed this year said some version of the same thing: “I always come back.”