Seed art of light rail train against skyline

Transportation Nerd’s State Fair

So far this summer we’ve read about the challenges of biking to the Minnesota State Fair and the popular experience of busing to it. But what does a transportation nerd do first after entering the fairgrounds under the old streetcar arch at the new West End gate? (Yeah yeah, the food…) Head for the tractors on Machine Hill or let the State House of Representatives know how you feel about raising the state gas tax on their annual survey in the Education building?

(The State Senate is also asking what you think about regulations for Uber and Lyft plus Met Council board member selection methods, among other things.)

Here are a few things I enjoyed this year.

Watch teenagers with Urban Boatbuilders build a canoe. (It’s probably built by now, but definitely check it out at the DNR building.)

High school students building a canoe

At the DNR Building at the State Fair

Amble over to the Agriculture building for a refreshing cider freeze. At $1.25, it’s the best edible deal at the fair. Then check out the prizewinning seed art light rail train.

Seed art of light rail train against skyline


My favorite stops so far in my second year of visiting the State Fair are the Creative Activities and Fine Arts buildings. In the Fine Arts building, you can gaze at lonely black and white urban streetscapes or sepia-toned bridges and modernist mobile houses. Or glass skateboards and origami motorcycles.

Origami motorcycle and creature

Look for Abdi, a kid in the Somali mall in Minneapolis whose photo portrait by Priscilla Briggs was one of my favorites this year.

But the best in urban nerdery has to be the postcard frames in the Creative Activities building. Until my first state fair visit last year, I had no idea you could compete by framing thematic collections of old postcards. (Would the Minnesota State Fair appreciate my collection of postcards from Kansas City’s Quality Hill neighborhood?! Or perhaps my views of old school women’s hotels?)

This year you can tour Nicollet Avenue/Mall, discover where you can explore both near and far by departing from St. Paul’s Union Depot today, or read about the streetcar boats of Lake Minnetonka. The narrowest themes are sometimes my favorites. I mean, how many views are possible of the old Selby Avenue streetcar tunnel?

Toy streetcar in frame of streetcar tunnel postcards

At the end of the day, dangle your feet as you slowly cruise over the crowds on the SkyGlider toward your way home. What are your transportation nerd favorites at the fair?

SkyGlider riders against the sunset

Heidi Schallberg

About Heidi Schallberg

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Heidi Schallberg tweets @laflaneuse more than she posts here. Her posts reflect only her opinion and not those of any organization.