Are you a fair-goer?

Though you might have seen it before, the Minnesota State Fair does offer fun for the college student

Erin Adler

The Minnesota State Fair has been a late summer mainstay for years, its 12-day run marking the end of lazy afternoons and the beginning of the school year for children and adults.

Fair-going is the kind of activity people either love or hate – and even the lovers sometimes feel they’ve exhausted the event’s potential.

In recent years, Minnesota State Fair planners have made a special bid to one group who might feel they’re “too cool” for the Fair: the teenage set. With the “Teen Fair” events intended to offer fun for 13-to 18- year-olds, though, what’s a college student to do?

Though she admits the “Teen Fair” name might be a turn-off for college students, Danyl Zamber, of the fair’s media and public relations staff said many “Teen Fair” events are suitable for a slightly older crowd, including college students.

Zamber is a University alumna and said college students are a group Fair organizers want to reach.

“(College-aged students) are a group of people we’d love to see come out,” she said.

If twenty-somethings aren’t excited by teen programming, Zamber said the fair offers new events every year and also updates its “tried and true” attractions. She cites the animal barns as something people might think they’ve seen before; however, she said many people don’t realize how many baby animals have been born while fair-goers watch in recent years.

The wide variety of fair activities and exhibits really does offer something for everyone, she said.

“No matter what you’re interested in or going to school for, there’s something out here for you,” she said.

There’s also the social aspect of the fair, she said. Because it’s held every year, the fair is a chance for young people to make attending a sort of annual ritual.

“I tell people to bring their friends and start their own tradition,” she said. “I know some college students already do this; I’ve heard people say, ‘The fair is the only time I see my friends from high school,’ ” she said.

For any remaining skeptics, here are 10 reasons to attend the Great Minnesota Get-Together:

1. The State Fair equals the Date Fair: That’s right, it might as well be called the “date fair” if you’re a college student. That’s because it’s the perfect place to take the guy you’ve been eyeing at the laundromat or the girl in your summer term class. It’s inexpensive to get in and transportation’s free. You can regulate the date depending on how its going, staying for one hour or eight hours, choosing activities geared toward talking a lot or keeping busy. Whether she likes animals and tractor pulls, or creative arts and go-carts, there’s something everyone will enjoy doing and seeing here.

2. Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey will be there: The Western Horse shows (held Sept. 2-6; $6) feature Whiplash, that little monkey who rides the dog. This event gives you a reason to don that Western-themed shirt you bought last year but never wore. You can even eat at Taco John’s afterwards.

3. “American Idol” was based on the Fair’s annual amateur talent contest: Well, not really, but it could have been, because the fair’s had this competition for 33 years. Check out the Teen Division (13-18) and the Open Division (all ages). Semifinals are held every night for the first 10 days at 8 p.m., with finals Sept. 4.

4. New technology can take your hair from “flat and tired” to “phat and inspired” at the L’Oreal Color Space booth: The booth, new this year, gives free advice on hair coloring, along with virtual haircolor makeovers. On the corner of Cosgrove Street and Randall Avenue.

5. Go bar-hopping without the hassle of driving: If you’re 21 or older, you can take the bus to the fair and walk the short distance from bar to bar (or beer garden), without going near a car. A safe twist on the “bar crawl,” if it comes to that.

6. It’s like sample day at the grocery store, without the old ladies and toothpicks: Aug. 30, select vendors will be offering “sample-size” versions of their normal fare at reduced prices, making the always-difficult choice between cheese curds and pronto pups unnecessary – you can have both!

7. Free music that’s not meant to be “retro” – but is (plus some new stuff): The fair isn’t billing their Toyota Grandstand Concert Series this way, but the 2005 line-up reads like your collection of “vintage” concert T-shirts. If you’re into celebrating the ’70s, don’t miss Lynyrd Skynyrd Aug. 28; if the ’80s are your thing, Motley Crue plays Aug. 26. The other cool part is watching these groups’ real fans rock out – but don’t laugh too hard, because someday you’ll be lip-synching to Maroon 5 at their state fair comeback appearance. Currently-popular bands will also be there, such as The Hopefuls on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28.

8. Experiment with – or just watch – “extreme sports”: This year, there’s a Rope Obstacle Course (at Adventure Park), a Rock Climbing Wall and the Turbo Bungy (both in the Midway area). If you missed the first “extreme sports” craze, now is your chance to impress.

9. Show off your hidden talent or interest: Everyone has one – the talent you’ve been waiting to unveil if you only had an audience. Perhaps it’s pie-eating (sponsored by KDWB on Aug. 31), or maybe it’s carving butter 10 a.m. to 6 p.m (every day in the Cattle Barn’s Milking Parlor). Are you secretly intrigued by all things robotic (see the RoBots six times daily on Murphy Avenue) or would you rather paint pumpkins? If so, there are plenty of competitor and spectator opportunities for those with obscure, uh, skills.

10. Support the University presence at the fair: The University will be present at the fair in more ways than one. Visit Radio K’s booth or stop by the seating-and-shade structure designed by University architecture students (near the Midway). Or challenge your Gophers pals to find as many examples of the University at the fair as they can!