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Minnesota State Fair T-shirt bingo

People-watching is one of the best parts of the Minnesota State Fair, and one of the specific things that makes watching them so much fun is their T-shirts. My colleague Jim Walsh was well aware of this when he posted his State Fair fashion photo essay earlier this week. As great a statement as a hat or dress or pair of shoes can make, for cross-generational, pan-cultural personal expression, the humble T-shirt is the greatest tool humankind has at its disposal.

The T-shirts at the State Fair are always an interesting referendum on the public’s tastes, interests and general attitudes about life in Minnesota. This year, with no hotly contested elections or ballot initiatives, and the relative demise of the Tea Party, the T-shirt landscape seems much less politically charged than it has in years past.

Below is one of four bingo cards specially created to reflect this year’s T-shirt trends at the Fair, based on careful and painstaking onsite research over several hours. Print one out and take it with you. Each category includes an illustrated example of the sort of T-shirt that might fit in each, but your matches may be entirely different. There’s obviously a lot of room for interpretation in some categories – “innuendo” and “Minnesota Cute” are in the eye of the beholder, but you know them when you see them.

That said, please try to keep it as accurate and honest as you can. For our purposes, “Small Town” refers to towns with populations under 5,000, so if you come across a T-shirt for the Thief River Falls High School Prowlers football team, you can’t count it for “MN Small-Town H.S. Football Program.” Thief River Falls has a population of about 8,500. Keep looking for Sauk Centre or Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Good luck! If you have a winner, please make a note what each T-shirt said, and email a photo of your card to

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Pat McGee on 08/27/2014 - 11:31 am.

    Warning: totally distracting

    Very clever and very distracting! Printing out bingo cards for my family is so much more interesting than updating a database.

  2. Submitted by Presley Martin on 08/27/2014 - 01:11 pm.

    T-wolves, Twins?

    This is awesome. But I wonder what happened to major sport teams? Are they just too common or should we just put them under “jock triumphalism?”

    • Submitted by Andy Sturdevant on 08/27/2014 - 03:25 pm.

      Good question!

      I decided to leave them off because they’re so common. Maybe I should have identified specific players.

      However, if you do see a T-Wolves or Twins T-shirt with a jock triumphalist slogan, by all means, it should be counted in that category. I think you could make an argument that slogans like “This is Twins Territory” or “Hard in the Paint” or “Minnesota is all in” would definitely count as jock triumphalism. And of course a Timberwolves T-shirt could go in the “Wolves” category, too. 

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