State Fair continues to rock

Tyler Rushmeyer

Food, giant animals and rides might be the main draw for many fairgoers, but the variety of music at the state fair is sure to offer something for everyone.

Dozens of bands of all types will take the stages and streets of the fairgrounds during the 12-day get-together to play everything from ’80s rock to country to polka.

A variety of acts will take the five free stages during the fair, but the biggest names take the grandstand at the conclusion of each of the 12 days.

The year’s edition features the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Steve Miller Band and Bonnie Raitt along with Poison and Firehouse. Others set to appear include Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Brooks and Dunn and the Bodeans.

Renee Pearson, entertainment director for the state fair, said the selection process of the grandstand acts is dependent on many factors.

Trying to book an interesting variety of acts that appeal to a lot of different people is the main goal, she said.

“The state fair audience encompasses people of all types and musical tastes,” she said. “When selecting acts, it’s important to remember we’re not a club who can book acts when convenient for them. We look at who’s available and touring during the 12 days of the fair and go from there.”

Pearson, who said the booking process occurs from October to May, said she deals with four or five core agencies when selecting artists. From there, she looks at the talent rosters of various agents, who call her with suggestions and requests.

While most excited about the appearance of the Flaming Lips, Pearson said she is very happy about this year’s entire lineup and that everyone should have an act to come and check out.

For those interested in marching bands, the University’s marching band will perform Aug. 27.

Mary Schneider, assistant director of the marching band, said the appearance is set based on the dates of Spat camp, the intense 10-day program that teaches both new and returning members the University’s music and marching techniques.

The camp begins Aug. 22 for the 100 new members and Aug. 24 for the returning 200 members, Schneider said.

“The state fair provides a break for everyone after five intense days of practicing,” she said. “It’s our first appearance of the season and the first performance for the new members.”

The band will play traditional school songs including the “Minnesota March,” which was written by John Phillip Sousa for the University and performed by his band at the 1927 fair, she said.

“Our band is the pride of Minnesota, an ambassador of both the University and the state, and the fair gives us a great opportunity to represent both,” Schneider said.

Molly Watters, drum major marching in her third state fair parade, said the event is a welcome relief from the practice routine.

“We spend a lot of time during Spat camp drilling, practicing and learning routines,” she said. “It’s nice to just get out and march again.”

Erin Steiner, flutes and piccolos section leader marching in her fourth state fair parade, said the best part is having a free, relaxing day at the fair after the march.

“The rest of the day gives a chance to just chill and enjoy the break from camp and it’s a really a fun time just hanging out with everyone,” she said.

A high school band competition will also take place during the daily parade alongside the various floats and royalty.

Theresa Weinfurtner, entertainment supervisor for the state fair, said any band can enter the competition. They are then split into three divisions – A, B and C – based on school size. Judged by some of the best in the state, awards are given out to the top scorers in each division at the conclusion of the 11 days of marching, she said.

The fair hosts local and Midwest-based music on its free stages including R&B group Mint Condition, Chicago-based jam band Umphrey’s McGee, country artist Rockie Lynne, a capella group Tonic Sol-Fa, the gypsy jazz group Twin Cities Hot Club and country-blues artists, the Front Porch Swingin’ Liquor Pigs.