Monday, August 26, 2013

The Minnesota State Fair!

It's my favorite time of year, the Minnesota State Fair.  This year, I went on opening day.  We had a fantastic time. And here's my report.

Before I start, how about a little backstory?  I'm a transplanted Minnesotan.  I first went to the fair when I was eleven and it has been an important part of my summers ever since.  Confession: On deployments, I was more devastated to miss the fair than Christmas at home. That first year, my parents took us early in the morning (in order to get a good parking spot.)  We bought a carton of orange juice and breakfast at the little grocery store by the barns that mostly only fair workers know about.  We walked every inch of the fairgrounds: the barns, the Midway, machinery hill, and the Fine Arts building.  For lunch, we went back to the cool, shady grass by our car and ate out of our cooler.  My parents saved and saved their money but they never kept us from having fun and going out -- we just did it the old-fashioned way.  When I met my guy, I introduced him to the great get-together and now he's a devoted follower too....but we're quite a bit more extravagant than in the old days.

I always spend  time in the Creative Activities building.  I was greatly impressed as a child when my aunt won a ribbon for two needlepoint Christmas stockings - with my and my sisters' names on them. I still use that stocking and ever since, I've dreamed of entering something I made into the fair and seeing it on display.  This year, I finally did it.  With the prompting of my quilt guild, I made a Quilt-on-a-Stick for the needle arts category #228.  The theme changes every year, 2013's is "Tattoos and Body Adornment at the Fair" which perplexed a lot of quilters but I plowed ahead, determined to have something to enter and came up with this one:

It's not a tattoo but it is a piercing.  My goal was to do my best and to have a little quilt that I could hang on my wall and remember the experience by and I know I succeeded.  I just love this cow!  She's foundation pieced from a pattern by Cyrille at BubbleStitch.  I scaled the block and trimmed it to meet the eight by nine inch requirement, pieced the number on the ear tag from a fat quarter of Moda's "Ten Little Things" I picked up on the shop hop, and added a flange to the binding.  The back has a sleeve to fit a paint stir stick.  My ACE Hardware one was salvaged from a free fan I got a few years ago at the fair so I thought it would be fitting for it to get a return trip.  The back and the front were quilted separately and then stitched together with the button and the binding.  I used fusible fleece, interfacing and bamboo batting for stability and puffiness.

Once I finished, I read through the needle- and handcrafts booklets and decided to enter two more items I had on-hand.  For quilting category #222, "Wall appliquéd; machine-quilted by applicant" I used my Madrona Road mug rug, "Taking Flight".

For handcraft category #745, "Stuffed fabric toy animal, other than bear, made by exhibitor, under 15 inches," I entered Dresden the horse which I posted about earlier.

My aunt Deb (the lovely lady who made my Christmas stocking so many years ago) also went to the fair on opening day.  She called me just after nine in the morning, asking questions about the little pink colt I entered.  After my description, she informed me I won a blue ribbon.  I was in the horse barn at the time -- jumping up and down and squealing.  When I got over there, this is what happened:

After that phone call, the fair was even better than ever; I had a goofy perma-grin on my face that just wouldn't go away.  I didn't expect to win anything, I just hoped my things would be displayed so I could check that box in my life goals list but now I think I'm seriously hooked.  I want everybody to enter something in the fair; it's so much fun to become even more involved with something you love.

We had a great time at the fair but I only have a few photos to prove it; I'm always having too much fun to remember to snap.  I did get a couple of my favorite quilts though.  (By the way, these are mostly photos taken through glass in buildings with OLD lighting so be forgiving.)

I LOVE this Minnesota Quilt by Jody

Okay, this knit one's not a quilt but it's lovely!

Flaun won the rosette for Modern Style!

All of our guild's quilts-on-a-stick were on display.  The winners had a lot of detail.

We also saw the Budweiser Clydesdales up close and personal. (And met Rin Tin Tin #12...but no pic of him.)

We sampled several of Minnesota's 10,000 craft beers. (Schells, Summit, Surly, Lift Bridge, Bent Paddle, Castle Danger, Mankato, and Flat Earth...)

In the Agriculture/Horticulture building we always check out the seed art.

I loved this immense seed sack collection there.

If you've never been to the Minnesota State Fair, you should go. If you are a regular, then you probably want to compare food lists.  Here's ours: Minneapple Diner's Minnepumkin pie, Ole's Pistachio Cannoli, Swedish coffee, West Indies' chicken pasty, olives on a stick, roasted sweetcorn, Giggles' grilled salmon, honey sunflower seed ice cream, and Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies with ice cold milk.  I'd also recommend the Minnesota Historical Society's free walking tour (you get prize!)  This last part might be too tricky to plan but we just happened to hop off the SkyGlider's north end to sing the Great Sing-Along's last song of the night and after the laser show we hopped back on headed south just in time to watch the Grandstand fireworks while our feet dangled above the treetops.  It was a magnificent and romantic end to a super fun day.  If I can finagle it, I'm going back to pick up a free yardstick and admire those quilts a little more.  The fair goes through Labor Day, so you still have a chance to catch it this year.

Only a couple more photos.  Here's a cathedral window quilt from Anoka County, Minnesota.  After seeing it at the fair,  mom and I made our first cathedral window blocks for the upcoming MMQG September block lottery.  Holy moly that quilt must have taken some serious work!

Here's my block and mom's in-progress:

Thanks for hanging in there.

That's it for now!



  1. Okay, I'm inspired! To make the cathedral window block, not for the fair! Well, maybe if it cooled down a little.

    1. Great! I'm sort of amazed with the whole cathedral window process and mom says if I won again I could cut into her vintage flour sacks. (I know what you mean about the temperature! We really lucked out going when it was breezy and only in the 80's.)

  2. Congrats on your ribbon! That Fair sounds great - I wish I could go to it one day. I love the cathedral windows quilt and your block is lovely :)

    1. Thank you very much! I think we highly ritualize our fair but it is a proud tradition here and it shows. A gal in our guild demonstrated the cathedral window construction and provided the tutorial I linked above; I just love that a fellow quilter made a complicated block accessible to us and I want to spread the love!

  3. Sounds like you had way more fun than we did. We went on Sunday and had to cut our visit short because of the heat. Not even the wet bandana on the back of the neck was working anymore, even with the breeze. Saw your horse, but couldn't find your quilt on a stick, even though I saw other ones. So, since you are now the best non-bear stuffed animal maker in the state, where do you go next? World's Fair? :)

    1. This weather is gonna bum me out. I think all the quilts-on-sticks were together but you never know in there...things get confusing! As for the ribbon, Jer says I should print it on business cards.

  4. great report! i am going to the fair this year and will look for your entries!!

  5. Hi,
    I was looking for images of the fair quilts because it was so hot I only got to check out a few. I was led here because your quilt on a stick was adorable and then I saw a photo of my quilt (the MN appliqued one). Just thought I would say hello :)

    I have been contemplating joining the guild, but haven't done it yet...

    Here is a link to my blog if you are interested.


    1. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog! I just loved your appliquéd quilt; it had so many cool details and the color palette was just right too.
      As for the Minneapolis Modern QG, we meet the second Thursday of each month (the next meeting is September 12th) at 7 PM in the Textile Center of Minnesota. First meetings are always free so you could check it out. I'm sure there will be some Fair talk and this month we're also show-and-tell sharing projects with any kind of handwork in them. (I usually go 20 minutes early to chat or peruse the textile library-lots of good books in there!)

  6. Hi! I just love this quilt and you have inspired me to enter a block in the 2014 quilt on a stick contest at the State Fair! A question for you if you don't mind. The premium book says that "all quilts must be three layers and quilted together." I was hoping that I could quilt the front and back seperately, because like you, I have different ideas for what I want on the front and back. What do you think?! I'm a stickler for rules and don't want to be "disqualified" although in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn't matter. Just curious if you have any input on how the rule is enforced at the fair or if I'm just reading too much into it. I'm an extremely novice sewer! Thanks, and thanks for such a lovely blog, I've found some great inspiration reading it!

    1. Hi, Sheree. I'm so glad you're inspired to enter; the theme for 2014 is "Ghosts, Ghouls, and Goblins at the Fair." How I skirted around the rule was by quilting the two sides separately and then quilting the two together a little including the binding. This would not be a good 'trick' for a larger quilt but I didn't get any negative comments from the judges about it. I think this category, in particular, lets you really go wild with technique. Good luck and see you at the fair!


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