The Minnesota State Fair is officially in full swing. The main focus, of course, is the food (read our roundup here). And why not? New selections are exciting and old favorites remain tasty. But there are many fantastic exhibits at the fair every year to enjoy before, during, and after you eat yourself silly.
One of the Fair’s mainstays is the historic DNR building. Standing 40 feet tall, the building was built in six months by the Civilian Conservation Corps using machined logs. Funding to build it came from federal and state emergency relief administration as well as State Fair funds. Things, of course, have changed a little bit since the building was built (the building has stood for 83 years after opening September 1, 1934). The cost of a gate ticket the year the building opened was 25 cents; today that gate ticket would cost an adult $14 (about as much as admission at the front gate).
The building hosts a variety of indoor and outdoor-based displays offering educational and interactive experiences for anyone that loves Minnesota nature. Here is a brief overview of each attraction:
Outdoor Fish Pond
The Minnesota DNR fish pond is one of the most popular attractions at the State Fair every year. The kidney-shaped pond is a huge 100×50 feet, and holds about 50,000 gallons inside. It’s open daily form 9:45am to 4pm, with fish pond talks taking place 15 minutes to the hour, every hour.
Open from 9am to 9pm daily five tanks display native Minnesota fish in their natural habitats. Each tank has a theme: Trout of Southeastern Minnesota, Fish of the St. Croix River, and Species of Central, Southern, and Northern Minnesota. Each tank is built lower to the ground so guests of all sizes can view the fish, turtles, and other aqutic inhabitants of each tank. The five tanks have a combined capacity of five thousand gallons of water (reference point: This is about the same amount of water a family of four uses, on average, in a month). When full, the tanks have a combined weight that is equal to 118 Minnesota moose (118,000 pounds).
For a (free) birds-eye view of the park, a visitor can climb 84 steps to the top of the 65 foot tall Fire Tower. Built in 1966 to provide a wildfire prevention message to State Fair visitors, the tower fell into disrepair and was closed from 1978 to 2005. After allocating funds for repairs, it reopened to visitors in 2006. As long as the inclement Minnesota weather permits, guests can climb the tower from 9am to 7pm daily (and this is Minnesota. If the weather isn’t cooperating just give it like ten minutes to change).
Smokey the Bear
Celebrating his fight against forest fires for 73 years, Smokey the Bear will be making daily appearances at DNR Park from 11 am to 1 pm.
Land and Minerals Display
From displaying the Minnesota Bedrock Geology Quilt to having an old-fashioned plunger box that allows kids to get the feel for setting off a blast, the display has a little something for everyone. Explore What is Under Your House to learn what geology and rocks support your home, or check out the hands-on display of Minnesota-found fossils that is co-sponsored by the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibit is located inside the DNR Building, open from 9am to 9pm daily.
Step inside a 24×12 foot camper cabin, representing more than 80 cabins available to rent in state parks and recreational areas around the state. The cabins are designed to give a “camping out” experience without the hassle of tent poles and pouring rain. The cabin is equipped with two sets of bunks, picnic table, and fire ring with grill, and some have electricity and are wheelchair accessible. The cabin is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm to the southwest corner of the DNR building.
DNR Forestry Display
This massive exhibit offers three new interactive areas: visitors will step inside a giant hiking boot surrounded by leaves for a-one-of-a-kind Minnesota photo, explore a white pine tree with roots a person can walk on, and learn about the important function forests play in creating clean water throughout the state and region, as well as gaze upon a wall of tree cookies 11 feet tall of native Minnesota trees. But this is just scratching the surface, as a guest can also explore the tools of foresters, walk a forest of informational trees, and play with a puzzle of dimensional lumber to learn about the quantity of wood that comes from a log.
Stand-Up Paddleboard and Kayak Simulators
An experience that lasts about three minutes for all ages to explore the fastest growing paddle sports in Minnesota (anyone under 8 years of age, however, requires parental participation). The simulators are free and located near the DNR Fish Pond.
Wall of Shame Trailer
Located to the south of the DNR building, this trailer has mounted animals on display that were taken illegally by poachers. The mounts will range from deer and bear to fish and turkeys. The goal is to bring an awareness to poaching and its impacts, and remind visitors of what is actually lost when hunters hunt illegally.
More than just a display, this is a full, nature-based experience: With lighting and sound effects, guests will move from day to night and through all four seasons of Minnesota. Master Naturalist volunteers will be on hand throughout the display to answer questions. This is located inside the DNR Building, and is open from 9 am to 9 pm.
Invasive Species Display
From our waterways to our prairies and forests there are invasive species seemingly everywhere. This display teaches guests about the species themselves and how to prevent them from spreading (and killing our existing wildlife). Explore interactive displays and check out the PlayCleanGo wall to pledge to “clear gear” and stop the spread of these species. Through out the display will be examples of the animals and plants listed as invasive, and the impact they can have on our environment and economy.
For a complete list of all events at the DNR Building and surrounding area, click here.