Minnesota State Fair-goers Enjoy a Pedestrian-Friendly Experience

Nearly every year, I go with my pals to the Minnesota State Fair to sketch people because it is one of the few places in the Twin Cities where I can see a variety of Minnesotans walking around, engaged in different activities on a public place. While I was sketching the throngs of fair-goers tramping down the middle of the streets with their corn dogs and mini-donuts, I wondered how many of them would want the same pedestrian-friendly experience, year-round in their cities and towns? What aspects of this experience can be derived from “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” that we can bring to our cities and towns year-round? Maybe instead of using terms like “complete streets” or “8-80”, should urban planners say they are just borrowing some of that pedestrian-friendly State Fair experience?

I marvel at how well the Fair’s management has accommodated the needs of the ambling hordes. Unlike Twin Cities’ downtowns, there are plenty of public bathrooms. There are lots of benches to rest weary limbs. Unlike the blank walls  of Downtown Saint Paul, there is something of interest nearly every foot, no empty parking lots to traverse and no bleak intersections with beg buttons.  Lots of trees and landscaped parts among the buildings and pavement. Many restaurants are open to the street with live musicians.

Unlike malls and most commercial sections of cities, there’s lots of stuff to do besides shop. There are politicians, educational booths, little museums and crop art.  Most of all, there are people. Lots and lots of people wandering about, most with no particular destination in mind. I’m guessing one of the most popular, urban-style activities at the Minnesota State Fair is people-watching. It’s worth the price of admission.

I’ll be returning today (Tuesday) for the 7th annual Minnesota State Fair Sketch-Out. Here’s some sketches Roberta and I did last Thursday and Saturday:


Fair_people Sham_wow bert2 Bert

Ken Avidor

About Ken Avidor

Ken Avidor is an illustrator, cartoonist and occasional courtroom sketch artist. Ken Avidor is an active urban sketcher and maintains a daily, illustrated journal. Ken is married to urban cartographer and talented sketch artist Roberta Avidor in the Union Depot in Lowertown, Saint Paul. Follow Ken and Roberta's sketching/bicycling adventures on their travel blog.

6 thoughts on “Minnesota State Fair-goers Enjoy a Pedestrian-Friendly Experience

  1. Monte Castleman

    What are you suggesting, banning cars from several square miles of a neighborhood and putting up Pronto-Pup stands?

    “Do you want the State Fair experience” is one of those loaded question that no one is going to say no to, and it seems like pushing an agenda to get people to agree to physical changes that they would never agree to if they knew exactly what the changes were. What if I asked “should I bring affordable shopping options to the neighborhood?” if I wanted to tear down an entire block and put up a Wal-Mart?”

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn

      “Do you want easy parking and no congestion?”

      *tears down block for parking garage and widens road by taking people’s front yards*

      This one cuts both ways.

  2. Monica Millsap RasmussenMonica Rasmussen

    I love fairs, but I’ve met plenty of people who don’t. Once, I was trying to get support for an activity for which I was writing a grant. I told people that it would be like bringing the state fair to our neighborhoods. It was not a selling point- many groaned.

    Likewise, there have been lots of events in the city that, in my mind, mimic the feel of the state fair in terms of attractions, masses of people coming to one area, transit use, walking, people watching, and people interaction. I think of last year’s All Star festivities as one recent example. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for these events. Actually, to be honest, every time we do have any development proposals that might bring some excitement to the area, immediately, people don’t want it “because it will bring traffic”- a similar complaint of neighbors of the fair.

    1. Rosa

      isn’t it car & bus traffic people object to, though? I live near one of the big Art Fair parks and, a block from the park, we don’t get the art fair experience – we get the parking. And the people who drove in, drove around the block a million times cruising for parking, dropped their trash near their cars, and then walked over to the park to enjoy the fair. People who live near the State Fair complain a lot about the car and bus traffic too.

  3. Ron

    Ever see people get stuck trying to walk along the west side of Snelling outside the fair?
    You have to walk so far before you realize it doesn’t go through that you just contemplate jumping into the road.
    Also the landscaping is for sh!t.
    Is nice walking inside the fair but it’s sorta bad walking into it.

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