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Fair and balanced Fair coverage

AFTERNOON EDITION

With the Fair now open, and it being August, much of the local media will have you believe most of the news is on a stick. At Finance and Commerce, Frank Jossi looks at … real estate values: “Consider the Minnesota State Fair as a real estate and business venture for a moment. Although the Fair technically is in Falcon Heights, it’s one of the largest private or commercial campuses in the St. Paul area. It has miles of streets, hundreds of buildings and more livestock square footage than a dozen farms. So, how much is all this real estate worth? Who owns it and who leases? … The Fair primarily owns the larger buildings but not the concessions, union booths, and so on. … Technically, the Fair owns the land those structures sit on, but not the buildings themselves. Each tenant leases the land and pays an annual license fee to the Fair. Food and beverage concessionaires pay 15 percent of gross revenue, after applicable taxes; non-food concessions are charged a rate of $105 per front foot. A 10-foot-wide space, for example, pays $1,050 during the 12-day run. Non-food concessions, such as amusements, pay from 15 percent to 40 percent of gross revenue. Exhibits displaying equipment, products and services for future sales — not on-site — pay $90 per front foot. Non-food institutions deemed ‘educational’ by the Fair pay $70 per front foot. Tenants also pay personal property taxes to Ramsey County.”

Andy Greder of the PiPress applies a bit of gloss to the sweating, high-caloric scene by recalling that F. Scott Fitzgerald once rhapsodized about the event: “For his short story ‘A Night at the Fair,’ published July 21, 1928, in the Saturday Evening Post, Fitzgerald mined his Midwestern roots. The St. Paul-born author set a teenage protagonist — Basil Duke Lee — amid the ‘tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space’ and the ‘whining, tinkling, hoochie-coochie show.’ Fitzgerald’s Fair included a yarn of a ‘six-legged calf,’ news of ‘aeroplanes that really left the ground’ and the Grandstand’s must-see re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the past, Fitzgerald had featured Basil and his buddies in a series of short stories on St. Paul’s Summit Avenue or in White Bear Lake, but ‘A Night at the Fair’ is his only known piece portraying his home state’s Fair. … Fitzgerald’s writing drew from personal experience, so it’s assumed he attended the Fair during his stints in St. Paul as a boy from 1908 to 1911 and as a young man from 1919 to 1922. ‘A Night at the Fair’ is thought to be set between 1909 and 1913.”  Let it be noted that the Epiphany Dining Hall lasted longer than the “hoochie coochie” show.

Considering the way money has a way of hemorrhaging out of your pockets at the Fair, the Strib’s Rick Nelson files a piece on freebies: “[F]ood freebies? It’s tough. Aside from the refreshing water at the Culligan stand, I’m hard pressed to come up with many handouts of the edible variety at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Kemp’s is changing that. Every day from now through Sept. 1 the ice cream maker is offering samples of the two finalists in its Hometown Favorites Flavor contest. Here’s how it works: Show up between 1 and 2 p.m. at the Kemp’s stand on Machinery Hill (or what’s left of it; the farm implement displays seem to dwindle each year), and sample ‘Land of 10,000 Licks’ (sweet cream ice cream blended with caramel, toffee and sea salt, created by Jennifer Folkens of Rogers, Minn.) and ‘Pubcorn and Peanuts’ (popcorn-flavored ice cream with crushed salted peanuts and dark chocolate, submitted by Kelly Moritz of St. Paul) and then cast a vote for your favorite. Both sound like winners to me.”

Everyone who enjoys a good righteous screed — and that’s you — will get a kick out of my blogging compadre, Joe Loveland’s piece at The Same Rowdy Crowd. Titled “Five Reasons to Hate State Fair TV News Coverage,” Joe rants on merrily: “Reason #2: Because skinny people repeatedly fabricating overeating stories is never that funny. One of the many recurring gags we will suffer through during State Fair TV news coverage involves willowy anchors and svelte reporters exchanging witty repartee about how grotesquely bloated and obese they are from going all Joey Chestnut on Commoner Food all day long. Oh, the humanity! Their image consultants tell them that pretending to be like the binging masses will help their Nielsens. But make no mistake, they are mocking us, as they spit and rinse their Sweet Martha’s at station breaks, and nibble the sensible sack lunches packed by their personal nutritionists. … Or … Reason #3: Because even hilarious jokes lose their charm when repeated the 653,776th time. ‘On a stick.’ ‘Jokes’ using those three hideous words will be repeated hundreds of times over the next 10 days on TV news. Though even Ed McMahon wouldn’t laugh the 653,776th time, you can count on our TV news friends to guffaw uproariously at every ‘on a stick’ utterance, as if they just heard it for the first time. To make things worse, every PR person in town will put their client’s product or service on-a-stick — long term care insurance on-a-stick, get it?! — because it is the one guaranteed way to get coverage for your otherwise non-newsworthy client.” Thanks, Joe. That was cathartic.

Well, thank you, Charles and Myrtle Stroud. Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “The University of Minnesota has received its largest single gift for scholarships — $14 million — and it comes from a longtime resident of Windom, Minn., who died last year at age 101. The U said Thursday that the money is from the estate of Myrtle Stroud, and it will be used to establish the Charles E. and Myrtle L. Stroud Scholarship fund for the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). Beginning this fall it will help 45 students, a number that will grow over the years as the endowment is fully established and invested, the school said.”

Richard Chin of the PiPress covers the International Cold Climate Wine Competition. “It brought together 21 judges, 800 wineglasses and more than 250 bottles of wine made from grapes hardy enough to survive an Upper Midwest winter. More than 50 commercial wineries from 12 states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Wyoming, Michigan, Connecticut, Maine, Nebraska and the Dakotas, sent their best bottles. The event is intended to elevate the standards of winemaking in the region and to help educate consumers that good wine actually can be made in climates far harsher than sunny Sonoma or the mild Mediterranean. The judges — wine writers, wine scientists, wine-makers, wine consultants, wine buyers, wine sellers, chefs and sommeliers — sat at tables covered with wineglasses labeled with only a computer-generated identity number. The wine bottles were kept in a separate room, and volunteers shuttled back and forth bringing in fresh flights of glasses for tasting and hauling out all the spit-out wine headed for the drain. ‘Our permit requires us not to have a lot of consumption,’ says Gordon Rouse, an amateur winemaker from Arden Hills who runs the competition.” See, that’s what confuses me, how can you judge a wine unless you consume enough of it to prove that it’s made you funnier and way more interesting?

Amid the regularly dismal news about the residential construction industry is a report, by Jim Buchta at the Strib, that rental housing construction is looking to double next year: “The city expects to issue permits to build more than 1,500 new housing units — mostly rental apartments, according to the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department. That’s double last year’s total and likely the highest number of units for any metro-area city since at least 2006, when Minneapolis issued permits for 1,571 units. It’s a boom that’s being fueled by the convergence of two trends: a return to city living and a growing preference for rental housing over homeownership.”

The special prosecutor assigned to Wisconsin’s “Supreme Court Choking Incident” has basically called it DOA. Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports: “Neither Supreme Court Justice David Prosser nor fellow Justice Anne Walsh Bradley will face criminal charges for an altercation this summer involving the two, a special prosecutor has determined. ‘After a complete review … I have determined that no criminal charges will be filed against either Justice Bradley or Justice Prosser for the incident on June 13, 2011,’ Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett wrote in a fax sent this morning to a Dane County judge. Bradley has said Prosser put her in a ‘chokehold’ during a June argument over a case in her chambers. Others have said Bradley came at Prosser with fists raised and he put up his hands to block her or push her back.”

Good piece by MPR’s Elizabeth Baier on small-town movie theaters confronting the hefty $75,000 cost of converting to digital projection: “Minnesota movie theater owners are confronting a digital dilemma sweeping the industry nationwide: The movie industry plans to switch to all-digital technology by 2013, rendering traditional 35 millimeter film prints obsolete. That leap to state-of-the-art projection may please audiences, but upgrading to digital projectors is expensive and the switch might force small movie theaters, including many in Minnesota, to close their doors for good. … The online movie website Box Office Mojo estimates there are 219 theaters in Minnesota, comprising about 1,000 screens. Some are multiplex centers like AMC and Regal. But others are family-owned and have fewer than five screens. With box office revenue and admission down from last year, now is not a good time for a conversion.”  But when you see something like “The Tree of Life” in digital …

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