Minnesota State Fair opens annual 12-day run Thursday - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Minnesota State Fair opens annual 12-day run Thursday

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Photo: MGN Online Photo: MGN Online

By STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota State Fair opens Thursday for its annual 12-day run through Labor Day, Sept. 7. While its roots go back to 1855, this will be the fair's 130th anniversary on its current site in Falcon Heights. The fair's oldest attraction, the Ye Old Mill water ride, turns 100 this year.

Here are things to know for the 2015 edition of the Great Minnesota Get-Together:

WHAT'S NEW
The fair features 40 new foods and 11 new frozen treats, from BBQ Pickle Ice Cream to Stuffed Italian Meatloaf On-a-Stick. Two new rides debut on the Mighty Midway: the New York New York Fun House and the Super Nova Roller Coaster. Free SPF 30 sunscreen is on tap at all information booths. Hmong Minnesota Day on Monday, Sept. 7, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Hmong refugees in the state. An updated Eco Experience includes a 25-foot-tall plastic "Bagnado" shaped like a tornado to dramatize how Minnesotans throw away 500 tons of plastic bags and packaging daily. The Department of Natural Resources building includes a new forestry exhibit.

WHAT'S MISSING
Live birds. Officials canceled all poultry exhibitions because of the bird flu outbreak. However, the Poultry Barn will be filled with activity anyway as the industry highlights the importance of turkey and chicken production to Minnesota, discusses the impact on farmers and highlights the recovery. Visitors can meet producers, browse displays and see presentations. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture exhibit in the Agriculture Horticulture Building offers animal health experts talking about bird flu and food safety. But the Turkey to Go stand is back and debuts a breakfast sandwich to complement its drumsticks and sandwiches.

PRICE HIKE
The highly popular All-You-Can-Drink Milk Stand has doubled its price to $2 a cup. The Midwest Dairy Association says it's the first price increase there in 11 years. The hike reflects the rising costs of running the booth, which started in 1955 when it charged a dime for a bottomless cup of cold, fresh milk. The association considered keeping the price at $1 and limiting customers to one cup, but stuck with the all-you-can-drink tradition instead. Even at $2, it's still one of the best values at the fair. The price drops back to $1 for one day only, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, to mark Military Appreciation Day.

PROTEST
Black Lives Matter plans a protest this Saturday, saying blacks are shut out of opportunities to become vendors. It starts at 11 a.m. with a march from Hamline Park up Snelling Avenue to the fair. It's not clear how big of a disruption the protest will cause on the normally busy first Saturday of the fair, but it's likely to at least tie up traffic on the east side of the fairgrounds for part of the day. Fair officials dispute the claims of unequal treatment.

ON STAGE
The Grandstand lineup is heavy on country artists. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood have already sold out, but tickets are still available for Alan Jackson, and for Merle Haggard with Kris Kristofferson. Rock and pop acts include Def Leppard with Styx (sold out), Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Patti LaBelle with the Commodores. Garrison Keillor brings A Prairie Home Companion to the Grandstand for what might be his last time, as he's retiring after the radio show's 2015-16 season.
 

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