U exhibit building at fair houses variety of groups

by Benjamin Ganje

Visitors to the Minnesota State Fair will have more than walleye-on-a-stick to look forward to this year.
For the first time, fairgoers will be able to sample the University with exhibits housed at its new building.
The new University building is located on Dan Patch Avenue between the grandstand and Snelling Avenue entrance.
The building showcases different aspects of the University, including both men’s and women’s athletics departments, the Raptor Center and the Institute of Technology solar-powered car.
This is not the first year the University has been at the fair.
“Prior to this year we had exhibits scattered around the fair in different buildings,” said Nina Shepherd, a University spokeswoman. “This is the first time we’ve consolidated most of them under one roof.”
Mike Tracy, special events coordinator, has been working to ensure that the building effectively represents the University.
In the next three years, improvements to the structure will be made. They will be funded entirely by private donations, Tracy said.
This year the only distinction between the University building and others at the fair will be the maroon-and-gold stage in the front.
“By the time the project’s over with, we will have branded the entire outside of this building,” Tracy said. “There’ll be a large poster up here starting next year.”
This year, however, the inside of the building will represent the University. Maroon and gold will adorn the floor, walls and exhibit booths.
The Academic Health Center is planning to conduct telemedicine from the fair. Two doctors on campus will examine fairgoers for skin cancer via a high resolution camera.
“The picture is sent live back to the University of Minnesota, where the doctors are,” Tracy said. “Telemedicine is excellent and it’s done throughout greater Minnesota.”
John Brant, assistant director for the Williams Fund, is busy setting up the men’s athletics exhibit.
In the new building, fairgoers will be able to buy tickets to any Gophers athletics event, Brant said. He said there will also be a screening room where visitors can watch Gophers highlights from last year.
Dan Patch Avenue is one of the busiest streets at the fair, Shepherd said.
“I think that it’s a great location,” said Sandra Gardebring, vice president for Institutional Relations. “We think that the number of people that pass through that area is going to be much greater than any other site we’ve ever had at the fair.”
Brant agreed.
“It’s great, a block and a half from the main gate, next to the beer garden and opposite the food stand,” he said.
The University does not own the building. It rents the space from the fair, Tracy said.
“We have it for as long as we want it or as long as the state fair is happy with us,” he said.
The fairgrounds are on property that is part of the University land grant, Brant said. If the University wants the land, it must give state fair officials a 99-year notice.
Next year will be the University’s sesquicentennial anniversary. To celebrate, the state fair will host a University of Minnesota day.
The Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 6.