With nearly 500 foods at 300 food concessions, there's something for everyone at the Minnesota State Fair.
Deep-fried candy bars, hot dish, spaghetti and meatballs, key lime pie, walleye, Pronto Pups and pork chops are just a handful of the 80-plus foods-on-a-stick available throughout the fairgrounds.
An overall record of 2,126,551 people attended the fair in 2019. The fair’s daily attendance record was set on a Saturday in 2018 when 270,426 people visited.
With the State Fair canceled for the first time since 1946, the sixth time ever, dating bating to 1859, fair goers are looking for their end-of-August fix.
Fair concession stands have popped up through the metro and outstate, including the Bad Rooster Food Truck at the Wild Prairie Harley Davidson in Eden Prairie, Blue Loon Concessions at Menards in Burnsville, and Miller Concessions at Cub Foods on Highway 7 and County Road 101 in Minnetonka.
Additionally, the first-ever Minnesota State Fair Food Parade, a drive-thru experience featuring 16 vendors, sold out in hours for a 12-day stretch between Aug. 20 and Sept. 7.
A vehicle ticket of $20 allowed patrons to follow the same one-way 1.5-mile route through the fairgrounds by all 16 vendors.
Among the vendors were Turkey-to-Go, Tom Thumb Donuts, Mouse Trap Cheese Curds, and of course, Dairy Barn malts.
With that same thought in mind, Josh Zamansky created State Fair to-go kits. A family style, simple and easy prep, memory-making opportunity featuring six fair favorites: Sweet Martha's Cookies, State Fair Mini Donuts, Sweet Corn, Ellsworth Cheese Curds, French Fries and Corn Dogs.
State Fair foods in your own home.
"I own a business called Dine and Deliver and pre-COVID we had a nice little operation doing corporate catering, corporate restaurant delivery. COVID really hurt the business. I was looking for ways of reinventing the business and I have been interested in the meal kit for some time. My sister called me when the State Fair canceled and suggested a meal kit with State Fair items. That's kind of how the idea came together. A COVID-pivot," Zamansky said.
The Fair kit is shipped to the customer's home — shipping is free to Minnesota residents — using gel packs and a cooler. Instructions inside the box are simple, making the experience easy and fun.
The cost of the kit is $59.95.
"It turns out this has been the best thing for our business. I knew it was a good concept. Everyone I talked to got really excited. I had no idea what the demand would be. It's selling like crazy. We sold out our initial production goal in one day. Then I just kept adding more and more production and we keep selling out of it. I have sold every piece of product I can get my hands on. We keep pushing delivery out more, but we'll fill all orders. We'd love to get them out during the fair of course," Zamansky said.
The initial order was for 30,000 corn dogs. That was gone in hours. Another 30,000 are on the way.
If your kitchen doesn't have a deep fryer, no worries, all items can be grilled, placed in the oven or cooked on a stovetop. Imagine hot out-of-the-oven Sweet Martha's chocolate cookies in a matter of eight-to-12 minutes.
"I definitely had a busy parent in my mind. I like to cook, but not everyone has the patience or the time. I love the meal-kit idea. My goal with this was to make something a busy parent could just throw in the oven. You can go all out with this, or you can use the easy three-step or less process," Zamansky said.
Zamansky believes the kit's success lies within the balance of favorites, not just one product.
"I think the popularity is due to the aggregate. I've been in food marketing, food sales for a long time. I always found the more restaurants we had in our restaurant delivery catalog the more they would all sell better. I think what has made this so successful is the family-style portions. Each product compliments each other and it's the box as a whole that has brought the best out of it," Zamansky said.