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A scaled-down State Fair over Memorial Day weekend; bringing film and TV production to Minnesota

ALSO: The History Theatre presents “The Root Beer Lady”; “A Song for Yolande” and “Our Debbie” at Crooners; and more.

The Minnesota State Fair is doing a soft open walk-around over Memorial Day weekend for the main event in late summer.
The Minnesota State Fair is doing a soft open walk-around over Memorial Day weekend for the main event in late summer.
Courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair

There won’t be pigs, tractors, butter princesses or a Midway. At “Kickoff to Summer at the Fair,” there will be food, brews, live music, shopping, kids’ activities, board games and a chance to ride the Giant Slide.

With almost a year’s worth of operating revenue lost to COVID-19, the Minnesota State Fair is doing a soft open walk-around over Memorial Day weekend for the main event in late summer, which is looking more and more like it will happen. Last week, Gov. Tim Walz said the fair should be “pretty close” to normal this year, depending on COVID and vaccination rates. Mark your calendar for Aug. 26-Sept. 6.

From Thursday, May 27, through Memorial Day on Monday, May 31, the fairgrounds will open for 7 five-hour time slots (4-9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, plus 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday through Monday). Up to 10,000 people will be admitted to each, a number that falls within the State of Minnesota’s current COVID guidelines.

Admission per time slot is $12.50 per person. Children 4 and under are free with a child ticket. The tickets will be sold through a lottery process. To be eligible for the lottery, you must register by today (Thursday, May 6) at 11:59 p.m. If you’re randomly selected, you may choose your date and time slot, then buy your tickets (up to six per customer, including children).

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Don’t wait until the last minute. Ticket sales for the sold-out Minnesota State Fair Food Parade in July crashed the website.

Face masks will be required. You must be seated to eat or drink. Picture a State Fair without every third person cradling a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies. You can still buy the cookies, but you can’t carry them around. Here’s a list of food vendors; note that some are cash only. Scroll down for a list of merchandise vendors.

Live music and entertainment will be available in several locations, including DNR Park, Visitors Plaza Stage, Andy’s Grille and Coasters. State Fair mascots will be on hand for socially distanced high-fives.

In the before times, the least crowded days at the Fair drew about 110,000 people. The highest daily attendance on record was 270,426 on a Saturday in 2018. Capping attendance at 10,000 should give everyone enough room to feel comfortable. This will certainly be the biggest crowd most of us have been in for more than a year.

FMI including the link you need to register for the lottery.

Bringing film and TV production to Minnesota

Wouldn’t it be fun if the next “Schitt’s Creek” were filmed in Minnesota? It will be filmed somewhere. As the pandemic winds down, there’s a backlog of television programs and movies waiting to be made.

“One thing that nobody can ever say again is that movies and TV are not vital,” said Melodie Bahan by phone on Wednesday. Bahan is executive director of MN Film & TV. “There’s so much content, and production has restarted slowly and safely in a number of places. As things ramp up, the traditional hubs are not going to be able to handle all the production.

“People are going to be looking for places where they can produce safely and take advantage of locations that haven’t been used to death. So the possibilities are great for the coming year, if we can get this tax credit passed.”

Melanie Bahan
Photo by Tom Wallace
Melanie Bahan
The tax credit Bahan means is the Minnesota Film Production Tax Credit, currently working its way through the Legislature. It would provide up to a 25% tax credit incentive to encourage medium- and large-budget film and TV projects to produce in Minnesota.

The award-winning FX series “Fargo” should have been filmed here. It wasn’t, even though the Coen Brothers movie that inspired it was. Instead, it was filmed in Canada. “They never even looked at Minnesota because we don’t have a tax credit.”

The movie “Clouds,” based on the life of Lakeland, Minnesota, teenager Zach Sobiech, should have been filmed here. “Zach’s mom, Laura, went to the Legislature with me two years ago and testified for the tax credit,” Bahan said. “Warner Brothers had optioned her book.” But “they shot the film in Canada.”

Those are just two examples. Today Georgia, not California, is the top movie production state. Georgia offers a 20% tax credit. Several other states offer attractive tax credits and other incentives for film production.

Minnesota currently has a production rebate program, which reimburses up to 25% of eligible production expenditures. It is dependent on direct appropriation from the Legislature. Since it was introduced in 1997, the rebate program has been funded at varying levels, from $5 million per fiscal year to zero dollars.

“This gets to the heart of why we are working on a tax credit program,” Bahan said. “A rebate program is inherently unstable. It doesn’t allow us to compete for the series that goes to a location and sets up shop, hoping to be there for five to seven years. No television series is going to go to a state that doesn’t have an incentive program that is stable.”

The tax credit drew bipartisan support (actually tripartisan, winning over one of the two independents in the Legislature). It was included in the House Omnibus Tax Bill but not the Senate’s. It must now be negotiated in a joint conference committee that started meeting on Monday. Five senators and five representatives must all agree that the tax credit is a good thing.

“Of the 10 members of the conference committee, five of them were sponsors of our bill,” Bahan said. “So anything can happen. It could all come down to three people behind closed doors at the end of the session.”

If the measure passes, it has the potential to bring millions of dollars in new spending and thousands of jobs to Minnesota. Bahan noted that most would be blue-collar jobs that don’t require a college education.

“You can work on a television show as a production assistant with a high-school education, and work your way up from that to a solid, upper-middle-class wage and a union job,” she said. “This is a field that is open to everyone. This industry can provide opportunities for young folks who don’t have either the desire or the resources to go to college.”

If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, it’s that individual voices – especially individual constituents’ voices – can make a difference in support for the arts. To learn more about the Minnesota Film Production Tax Credit and how to be an advocate, go here.

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

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V Now through Sunday, May 9: History Theatre: “The Root Beer Lady.” Dorothy Molter, dubbed “the loneliest woman in America” by the Saturday Evening Post, was the last legal non-indigenous resident of the Boundary Waters. Playwright and performer Kim Schultz has written a new one-person play about Molter’s solitary yet satisfying life. Her reading is directed by Laurie Flanigan Hegge. FMI and tickets (start at $15). Go here to watch a conversation among Schultz, Hegge and Artistic Director Ron Peluso.

Ian Manual tells his own story in his own words in “My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope, and Redemption.”
Courtesy of Club Book
Ian Manual tells his own story in his own words in “My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope, and Redemption.”
V Tonight (Thursday, May 6), 7 p.m.: Club Book: Hosted by Saint Paul Public Library: Ian Manuel. MELSA’s Club Book author series wraps a spectacular Spring 2021 lineup with Manuel, who languished in prison for 26 years, sentenced to life without parole for a crime committed when he was 13. The subject of Bryan Stevenson’s #1 New York Times bestseller “Just Mercy” and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof’s “Tightrope,” Manual tells his own story in his own words in “My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope, and Redemption,” one of the most anticipated memoirs of 2021. FMI and link to join.

V Tonight (Thursday, May 6), 7 p.m.: Subtext Books: Larry Millett for “Pineland Serenade.” Millett has two writing careers (three if you count journalist; he spent many years with the Pioneer Press). He writes history and history-of-architecture books, and he writes mystery novels, including several that bring Sherlock Holmes to Minnesota. His latest, “Pineland Serenade,” is a murder mystery that introduces a new character, county attorney Paul Zweifel, a sharp-tongued loner and dog lover. Is this the start of a new series? Free with registration. Note: This event was originally a double bill with John Sandford, who had to cancel.

L and V Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8, 6 p.m.: Crooners: “A Song for Yolande” and “Our Debbie.” Two back-to-back evenings will celebrate the lives of Yolande Bruce and Debbie Duncan, two revered Twin Cities jazz singers who died during the past year, Duncan on Dec. 18 and Bruce on March 8, 2021. Each will feature two sets of music by a Who’s Who of singers and musicians who knew them, worked closely with them and loved them. (The second “Song for Yolande” set will feature Moore by Four, with whom Bruce sang for many years.) Both will take place in Crooners’ new outdoor venue, the Belvedere, and both are sold out. Thanks to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and the Keep Music Live fund, they will livestream for free. Register here for “A Song for Yolande” and here for “Our Debbie.”

V Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8, 7:30 p.m.: Guthrie Theater: “Dear God.” Hayley Finn directs the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA Actor Training Program’s graduating company of 2021 in an original work by Michael Punter. “A graphic novel come to life,” set in modern-day America, it fuses live performance with digital illustration to tell the story of a girl who believes she is a prophet of God after surviving a tragedy in her small Minnesotan town. A world premiere in two parts, the first on Friday and the second on Saturday. FMI. Free on the UMN Theatre Arts & Dance vimeo page.

Ranee Ramaswamy in “Sacred Earth.”
Photo by Arun Kumar
Ranee Ramaswamy in “Sacred Earth.”
V Saturday, May 8, 7 p.m., broadcast and online: TPT “Stage”: Ragamala Dance: “Sacred Earth.” Launched last year to celebrate and uplift Minnesota arts organizations, “Stage” stepped up when stages were closed. Performances by local artists are broadcast on TPT MN and streamed at the TPT website. Next up: Minnesota’s internationally renowned Bharatanatyam dance company in Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s “Sacred Earth,” which explores the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and humankind. Filmed in 2019 at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids. On TPT LIFE: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 1 a.m., Sunday at 12 noon.