FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. – With one week to go, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is humming with activity. There is particular attention paid to what the Fair officials consider their new grand entrance way.
The venerable, but deteriorated Heritage Village at the western edge of the vast fairgrounds was removed to make way for a spectacular new transit hub and attractions. Up to 12 feet of dirt was removed from the once-elevated property, lowering it to ground level. The soil was transferred into new grassy berms around the location of the old Grandstand track.
Heritage Village has morphed into West Market, with open spaces, a new amphitheatre, a two-story pub called "LuLu's Public House," and dozens of new stalls for vendors, all of which have built in sprinkler systems for safety.Also, there is a new Heritage and History Center.
"It is artifacts, historic photos, stories of the people and places at the State Fair," said Brienna Schuette, Fair Marketing and Communications Director. "This is a year-round building. This facility has full HVAC, so we anticipate that people will have weddings here, corporate events and all sorts of things going on throughout the duration of the year when the fair's not happening."
However, nostalgia buffs need not despair. Some historical touches remain.
"The Royal American Train cars are here, as is the old log cabin and the 1930's street car arch (fully restored) is here at the West End Gate Plaza," said Schuette. "That sort of pay homage to the history of transportation here at the fairgrounds because the street car arch was actually an entrance to the fair starting back in 1934 when people used to come to the State Fair on streetcars."
The West End Gate Plaza is the most startling of the changes to the grounds. With the plantings, benches for hundreds of those needing rest and the Arch, it is a completely different entrance than the old Como Avenue side of the Fair, where bus commuters formerly entered the grounds.
"This is a proper welcome for people," said Schuette, "So,we are really excited about it."