It's Day Four of the 2012 Minnesota State Fair, and that means today is 4-H Day. Swine, rabbits, sheep and more will be available for your viewing and cooing pleasure. A 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction takes place at 6 p.m. at AgStar Arena.1500 ESPN's Saturday morning SportsTalk radio show will be broadcasting live with Joe Soucheray, Patrick Reusse and Judd Zulgad from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Blake Shelton's grandstand show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $31 and $41. Check out the fair's website for a schedule of the day's activities and events.
Admission gates open daily at 6 a.m. Ticket sales end at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. on Labor Day). Grounds close at midnight (10 p.m. on Labor Day). Most buildings are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Adults (13-64) pay $12, seniors and children 5 and older pay $10, and children younger than 5 are admitted for free. Promotional days are offered throughout the fair. Pre-fair discount admission is available for purchase through Aug. 22.
If you gotta drive: Take 35W north to I-94 east. Exit on Snelling Ave., then turn left and head north. Or take 35E north to I-94 west. Exit on Snelling Avenue, then turn right and head north.
State fair parking lots cost $12 and can be accessed off Larpenteur, Snelling, or Cleveland avenues. Discount tickets can be purchased in advance through Aug. 22 at Cub Foods or the State Fair Box Office. (Motorcycle parking is offered for $6 on Como Avenue.)
Free parking is available at 34 locations around the fairgrounds. Complimentary buses leave every 20 minutes from 8 a.m. to midnight to pick up fair-goers. In 2011, the park and ride program gave more than 900,000 rides.
If you want to avoid the car:
- Bike! Google Maps offers bicycle-friendly directions, and free bike racks are offered at the Como-Snelling and Hoyt-Snelling gates and at Commonwealth-West Dan Patch from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. Southwest Minneapolis Patch's favorite ways to get there look can be found on this map (if you don't mind hils, 8.7 miles), or on this map (if you hate hills, 11.4 miles). Both use Martin Luther King, Jr. Park as a convinient starting point.
- Bus! Three buses service the fair and accept cash or transit passes. Route 960 goes from Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis to the fairgrounds in about 15 minutes. Route 84 travels along Snelling Avenue. Route 3 connects downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul along Como Avenue. State Fair Express buses operate from 17 Twin Cities locations on 15- and 30-minute loops. Check the fair’s express bus website for more information.
- Park and Ride! A brand-new park-and-ride location oppened up very close to Southwest Minneapolis, at the Best Buy campus in Richfield. You'll also be able to hop a ride from the Parade Ice Garden or from the Dunwoody College of Technology, since it's a weekend.
The Minnesota State Fairgrounds are located at 1265 North Snelling Ave. N. in St. Paul. Maps and directions are available on the fair’s website. Note that light-rail construction on University Avenue will slow traffic flow; the fair’s website has tips on how to avoid the congestion.
Navigating the fair
The state fair’s website has downloadable maps of the grounds and daily activity schedules.
The state fair is also smart phone accessible, with a mobile website and stand-alone apps for iPhones and Android phones that include a manipulable map and the ability to search listings of events, merchandise and food.