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: