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New stuff at the Fair; Shakespeare in Winona; Sebastian Junger in October

ALSO: Hernán Diaz at Open Book; Open Streets at Lake + Minnehaha; and the Floating Library at Lake Phalen.

The Super Frisbee is 52 feet high with a gondola that rotates at 20 rpm and free-falls at three and a half times the force of gravity.
Courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair

We love how Minnesota State Fair news happens all year. The commemorative art announcement. The Grandstand line-up. The free live music. The new foods. (This year’s stunner: nothing new on a stick.) And now, the new attractions for 2018. Here’s a selection.

  • A new demonstration kitchen in the Creative Activities Building. The old kitchen has been transformed for optimal viewing of celebrity guests including Andrew Zimmern, Scott McGillivray (the “Income Property” guy) and Sioux Chef Sean Sherman.
  • Seven new rides. These include Super Frisbee, 52 feet high, with a gondola that rotates at 20 rpm and free-falls at three and a half times the force of gravity. Everyone else: Have fun with that!
  • A Mental Health Awareness Day. Entertainment, games, giveaways, and activities on mental health and wellness topics, hosted by the Minnesota State Advisory Council on Mental Health and other organizations. At Dan Patch Park on Aug. 27. Great idea.
  • New pet pavilions and outdoor demo area. The old Pet Center is now the Hangar, a food/craft beer/live entertainment place. Why the Hangar? Because before it was the Pet Center, it was home to the State Fair aircraft show in the early 1900s. At the Fair, history matters.
  • New restroom building on Murphy Ave. at the north end of the fairgrounds. The Fair loves stats and shared these: 54 toilets, 32 sinks, 22 urinals, 18 family restrooms, 8 drinking fountains, 4 water bottle refill stations. This is the sixth major restroom facility built on the fairgrounds in the last 10 years.
  • More horse shows. More draft and miniature horse competitions.
  • New stops on the History Walking Tour. There’s always something to learn on this two-mile, self-guided tour. Pick up a tour brochure at any of the 12 tour stops or the Minnesota Historical Society booth in the Education Building.

 Our State Fair is the second biggest in the U.S. (Texas is first). At 322 acres, it’s larger in area than some small towns. Last year’s attendance was a record-breaking 1,997,320. This year’s fair starts Aug. 23 and ends on Labor Day, Sept. 3. FMI.

Loving Shakespeare in Winona

We’re hearing great things about the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona. Like how its production of “Shakespeare in Love” is better than the movie. And how its “Midsummer Night’s Dream” reaches out to younger audiences. And how attendance for this season, its 15th, is up 44 percent over 2017 and 20 percent over 2012, the most recent record-setter.

Besides “Shakespeare in Love” and “Midsummer,” this season’s plays include “All’s Well that Ends Well,” “The Merchant of Venice” and David Ives’ “Venus in Fur.” Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., depending on the day. Tickets are $10-49, with three levels in between ($15, $25, $39). On-stage seating ($10) is available for some performances.

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The festival is midway through its six-week run. Final performances are Sunday, August 5.

“Shakespeare in Love”
Photo by Dan Norman
The Great River Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Shakespeare in Love.”

Great River Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit, professional Equity theater company and a staple in the Winona arts scene. If you’ve never been to Winona, it’s a lovely city and college town on the Mississippi, east of Rochester and about two hours out of the Twin Cities. A Plan Your Visit page on the festival’s website can give you some tips on where to stay, play and dine while you’re there. FMI including times and tickets. 

Sebastian Junger to keynote Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony

Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Sebastian Junger (“Tribe,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Fire,” “A Death in Belmont,” “War”) will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony in October, the Minnesota Humanities Center announced this week.

Junger, a former war reporter who saw intense combat in Afghanistan, is also the director of the documentaries “Restropo” and “Korengal,” a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a contributor to ABC News. He’s a terrific writer and a compelling speaker. Here’s a TED talk he gave in 2014.

In his latest book, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” Junger proposes that for veterans, a major cause of pain is not being at war, but coming home. Many veterans suffer from PTSD because the civilian world feels alienating, socially fragmented and isolating.

The award ceremony is part of MHC’s Veterans Voices program, which empowers Minnesota veterans to speak in their own voices through storytelling, art, theater and discussion groups. The ceremony honors military service members in Minnesota who are making outstanding contributions to their community. This year’s awardees will be announced in mid-August.

The ceremony takes place Sunday, Oct. 7, from 4-9 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas. It’s free and open to the public, but registration is required and seating is limited. FMI and pre-registration here.

The picks

Starts tonight (Friday, July 20) at Artistry: “Legally Blonde.” The movie launched Reese Witherspoon’s career. The musical won three Olivier awards including Best New Musical. The Bloomington theater is going big with its production. There’s a cast of 24, a 12-member orchestra, and a powerhouse creative team that includes Angela Timberman (director), Anita Ruth (music director), Heidi Spesard-Noble (choreographer) and Joel Sass (set designer). Tonight’s 7:30 p.m. performance is a preview. Opening night is tomorrow. Closes Aug. 19. FMI including times and tickets ($15 preview, then $46/43/15).

Saturday in south Minneapolis: Open Streets Lake + Minnehaha. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., East Lake Street from Elliot to Minnehaha, and Minnehaha from Lake to Godfrey, will be closed to motor vehicles but open to bikes, skateboards, wheelchairs, strollers, feet and paws. Playing in a city street turns out to be a lot of fun. Last year, more than 18,000 people came to this family-friendly event. FMI.

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Floating Library
Photo by David Eberhardt
You’ll find the Floating Library anchored offshore near Phalen Park Beach.

Saturday on Lake Phalen: The Floating Library launches. A collection of artist-made books and printed matter, aboard a raft, on a lake, accessible by boat. How crazy is that? So crazy that Sarah Peters’ public art project is now in its fifth year. You’ll find the Floating Library anchored offshore near Phalen Park Beach. New this year: Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen’s “Waves Enfolding: A Paper Memorial,” a collaborative public art piece honoring the lives lost during the Vietnamese refugee waves of 1954–92. Immigration is the theme of this year’s artist books and other materials. Saturdays and Sundays, July 21–Aug. 5, 1–6 p.m. Times may change, depending on the weather. FMI.  

Sunday at Open Book: Sunday Social: Hernán Diaz and Chris Fishbach in Conversation. A New York Times profile of Diaz bore this headline: “A Debut Novel. A Tiny Press. A Pulitzer Finalist.” Diaz, who grew up in Argentina and Sweden and lives in Brooklyn, wrote his first novel about an immigrant Swede in the Wild West. Agentless, he answered an open call for manuscripts from Coffee House Press. Then “In the Distance” became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Fishbach is Coffee House’s editor and publisher. 4 p.m. in the Target Performance Hall. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday at Plymouth Congregational Church: Tony Ross. The Minnesota Orchestra’s principal cello performs music of Batch, Britten and Brahms with pianist Mary Jo Gothmann. Part of Plymouth’s Summer Music Series. 7 p.m. Free.