Sara Hayden never intended to open a pie business. But then her mother passed away.

“A friend had a bakery,” Hayden said, “and my mother always made pie, and for those she loved, she fed. I miss my mom all the time and it all came together,” she said.

And, the stay-at-home mother of five, including triplets, had been looking for the right opportunity.

“I wanted some sort of income and still be a mom,” she said

Normally during August, she and her staff make nearly 20,000 individual hand pies to sell at the Minnesota State Fair. It would have been her sixth year selling inside the food building. Her business, Sara’s Tipsy Pies based in Stillwater, Minn., got launched because of an idea to add a little bit of alcohol from looking at recipes. Locally, there was Lift Bridge Brewing Company, and she made a cold call that ended with her drinking some beer with ‘the guys.’

The fair is where she tests out new pies. This year was going to be the debut of Cheery Cherry Cream, a cherry pie with a white wine and the Spicy Reuben, a feel-good savory pie with an Utepils Brewing German-style beer.

Despite the disappointment over the fair, Hayden hasn’t missed a step. This summer, she added Cub Foods to her impressive list of retailers who sell her pies.

A fair staple since 1947, Greg Karnis’ Pronto Pups stand was started by his parents, immediately after the polio epidemic.

“I don’t think too many people can say they survived two pandemics,” the Becker, Minn., business owner said.

They will sell the regular-sized corn-dog style hot-dog-on-a-stick during a food parade, held for a limited number of food vendors on the state fairgrounds the last weekends of summer. However, sales are not likely to approach the $2 million his business usually does at the fair, but Karnis is appreciative fair officials held the food parade event anyway.

Another fair food staple, the Minnesota Farmer’s Union coffeeshop, has leased space in Minneapolis’ North Loop warehouse district. Together with the Birchwood Cafe, who manages the coffeshop, the pop-up is offering some favorites from last year, including a BLT sandwich made from whole ingredients sourced directly from local Minnesota farmers.

Birchwood Cafe owner Tracy Singleton says what she misses most about the fair are the people.

“The MN farmers union coffee shop, it was such a hub and it was next to DFL tent, all the farmers stopping by, for many farmers it was the one day off to come to the fair,” she said.


Are you missing the sights and sounds of the State Fair? TPT Photographer Matt Mead wandered the 2019 Minnesota State Fair with his camera. Take a look at his photos of baby lambs, butter sculptures, and more from last year’s Great Get-Together.

Master storyteller Kevin Kling is a frequent essayist on Almanac – and whether he’s waxing poetic about the star or the Vikings, his stories have one thing in common: They stick with you. Check out his State Fair Memories. 

In 1890, a black painter by the name of John R. White was awarded a blue ribbon at the State Fair. Black Minnesotans have been part of the State Fair since the beginning, often struggling to be treated equally inside the fairground gates.