My friend, I need to start this piece with a confession... I, Johnny Marks, am a recovering Minnesotan. Minnesota born and raised, I have worked and lived in Iowa now for, almost a decade (with a break between stints). One thing I have learned in my time in both states: folks love their state fair. Iowans love their blank food on a stick, Iowans love their... blank food on a stick. Iowans enjoy great national artists nightly at the Grandstand, Minnesotans enjoy... great national artists nightly at the Grandstand. Yeah. So why is it that one fair has to "prove" it is better than the other? Because Minnesota made the claim...

The official magazine of the Twin Cities made the claim: "Our fair is better than Iowa's"

The Minnesota State Fair is in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. A sort of suburb of Saint Paul, the capital city. This argument stems from this month's issue of Mpls St. Paul magazine which is dedicated to the 2021 edition of the Minnesota State Fair. Fair enough. However, check out what they've written on the bottom right of this months issue:

Johnny Marks/TSM
Johnny Marks/TSM

Now, my mother sent me this photo. She lives in St. Paul. Admirably, I did not read this issue. I simply am taking issue with the claim the Minnesota edition bests Iowas. As someone who's been to both, I feel I have some insight. So, let's start with a tail of the tape for both fairs, shall we?

Minnesota vs. Iowa: WAY more similar than different

Minnesota State Fair:

  • LENGTH: 12 days (Aug. 26 - Labor Day 9/6)
  • ACRES: 322 acres (official website)
  • 2021 GRANDSTAND HIGHLIGHTS: Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Doobie Brothers, George Thorogood & The Destroyers (official website)
  • AVG. YEARLY GUESTS: 2 million (

Iowa State Fair:

  • LENGTH: 11 days (Aug 12 - 22)
  • ACRES: 445 acres - 160 of which is for camping (official website)
  • 2021 GRANDSTAND HIGHLIGHTS: Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, Styx, Doobie Brothers, Dan+Shay (official website)
  • AVG. YEARLY GUESTS: 1.13 million (

As you can see, the two fairs are back-to-back, with only 4 days separating the two. The drive straight from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines to the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights is roughly 3 hours and 40 minutes (assuming there's no road work or wrecks). In other words, many of the ride operators and even some food vendors will go from one fair to the next.

Minnesota's attendance total is higher, but so is the state's population and the Minnesota edition is one day longer. Both Grandstand acts are tremendous, and lean heavily into Country Music and Classic Rock. This year, the Iowa State Fair has 63 new food items including nutritious options, Peanut Butter and Fluff Cookie Dough, and Island Noodles with Teriyaki Chicken. the Minnesota State Fair has 27 that I could count. Still, both have tons of great options. Both rank highly in the biggest state fairs article, and both are during different dates. Hence, both are awesome. Does it come down to Minnesota vs. Iowa? If so, I guess that's just personal preference.

See ya at the fair. BOTH  of 'em. I'm going to need bigger pants...

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