Before my first State Fair visit this week, I was guilty of a cardinal sin in Minnesota: I had never tried a cheese curd. The admission drew gasps from co-workers, a shock that turned to disbelief as I admitted that I didn't want to try them, either. Small bites of curdled milk terrified me, and the cherished Midwestern snack seemed like an inferior cousin of the mozzarella stick. Thus was born a quest for a Floridian who had never been to the State Fair: Try your first cheese curds at the Mouth Trap, the giant curd purveyor in the Food Building, and document your experience.
We asked readers to suggest essential fair experiences for a first-timer. I was worried. Sweet Martha's, corn on the cob and the SkyGlider all sounded like fun. But what was this about pork chop on a stick? And how much milk can one person drink, anyway? Worst of all: What if I ended up liking cheese curds and then had to endure "I told you so" for all eternity?
For better or worse, here is how my first State Fair trip went, with items ranked on a scale of 1 to 3 corn cobs. 🌽 = OK 🌽🌽 = Great 🌽🌽🌽 = Can't wait to try again
It's hard not to love the Mouth Trap, with the punny name and cute cartoonish mice on its neon sign. The golden cheese curds glistened in the sunlight once we got outside. On my first bite, the crispy, salty batter lit up my taste buds, but my delight switched to disappointment as my teeth met the rubbery lump of the curd. "I'm sorry" was all I could muster to Ashley Miller, my co-worker filming me.
Cheese curds: 🌽 Fries: 🌽 Fried pickles: 🌽🌽🌽
Rides and games
I'm not normally afraid of heights, but the sway of the SkyGlider unlocked a primal fight-or-flight response. But all I could do was grip the bar as we ascended. In true Gen Z fashion, I called my grandma on FaceTime, took videos with my phone and snapped a photo on an instant camera while floating above the fair. Ye Old Mill was a different kind of scary as the boat splashed through pitch-black tunnels illuminated with only the eerie red glow of an exit sign. Ashley and I were confused about why a staffer assumed we would sit in the same row. Later we learned Ye Old Mill is called "the tunnel of love."
Sky Glider: 🌽🌽🌽 Ye Old Mill: 🌽 Giant Slide: 🌽🌽 Fair game: 🌽🌽
See and do
As someone who can barely draw a straight line with a ruler, I was blown away by the creativity of the crop art. Some highlights for me were the pieces referencing our orca terror this summer, Lake Chipotle and Allan of "Barbie" movie fame. The baby animals in the Miracle of Birth Center pulled on my heartstrings, quickly sending me into a childlike state as I waited eagerly in line with the toddlers to pet a bunny. Sadly, the bunny got overwhelmed and had to take a nap. But I was over the moon when I got to pet a cow for the first time.
Miracle of Birth Center: 🌽🌽🌽 Crop art: 🌽🌽🌽 Pumpkins: 🌽🌽🌽
On a stick
I was intrigued by the multitudinous stick-based offerings at the fair: corn dogs, Pronto Pups, meat loaf, cheese, egg rolls and even deep fried olives. The porkchop-on-a-stick stand made its presence known from afar as smoke billowed from the roof and blanketed the area with a haze rivaling the Canadian wildfire smoke. It was just after my first bite of a juicy pork chop that my right eye began to water, then swelled up as if there was something in it. Eventually it became hard to keep my eyes open, and my eyesight didn't return to normal until hours later. I'm not sure what happened, but next time I will wear swimming goggles in the BBQ section.
Ashley harangued me (rightfully) for biting into a Pronto Pup from the side rather than from the top. After two bites, I was missing the sweetness of a traditional corn dog.
Pork chop: 🌽🌽 Corn: 🌽🌽🌽 Pronto Pup: 🌽
There were almost too many lemonade stands to pick from, and I picked the wrong one. Later, an adorable, tasty lemon sorbet in a hollowed-out lemon made up for that earlier disappointment. My favorite drink of the day was the Buzzin' Blue hard seltzer slushie from the Blue Barn. It was a perfect adults-only treat after being in the sun for hours.
Farmers Union coffee: 🌽🌽🌽 Milk: 🌽🌽 Slushie: 🌽🌽🌽 Lemonade: 🌽
With my eyes so inflamed that I looked like a crying toddler whose mom said he couldn't go on another ride, Ashley sat me down in the Agriculture Horticulture Building and left me with a refreshing apple cider popsicle while she took pictures of the crop art.
At the end of my day at the fair, I finally reached the promised land: Sweet Martha's. I'd heard of their beloved trademark — the overflowing container — but the anticipation as they're stacked sky-high in front of you is something else. I came prepared with Ziploc bags for leftover cookies, but we didn't need them. They were too yummy to leave a single crumb behind.
Apple cider popsicle: 🌽🌽🌽 Sweet Martha's: 🌽🌽🌽 Dole whip: 🌽🌽🌽