News Column

Minnesota State Fair's West End Market a hit at opening

August 21, 2014

By Jaime DeLage, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Aug. 21--The fresh, open feel of the new West End Market was a hit with attendees on the first day of the Fair Thursday.

Built on the site of the old Heritage Square, the West End Market includes a new museum, called the History and Heritage Center, and open-air, roofed booths for many of the same vendors that populated Heritage Square.

It also has a live music stage and new restaurants LuLu's Public House and The Blue Barn.

"We love it," said Linda Schmidt, who was checking out the booths with friend Berni Carlson. "No more stuffy old buildings, and they kept a lot of the old shops."

She liked how open the space felt, Carlson said, and that it had so many places to sit down and rest.

Vendors seemed generally happy with the space, too, although it wasn't as convenient for setup.

"We used to be able to drive right up to our booths," said Stuart Tollefson of the Ottertail Oaks pottery shop. "I had to cart it all in. The energy it takes when it's 80 degrees out."

Tollefson and some fairgoers were dismayed to find a lot of puddles in low spots on the plaza after the morning rain.

Vendors reported good traffic on the first morning. Linda Hamilton of Texas Trash and Treasures said she had three sales already by 10 a.m., which was OK by her. She said many shoppers were stopping on their way into the fair from the new transit hub, and she expected that most of them would wait until they were on their way back out to make purchases.

Fran Grover of Plainview, Minn., said it was hard to give up some of the old buildings of Heritage Square.

"You miss some of the old things, but you've got to move on," he said.

His granddaughter Jordyn Anderson, also of Plainview, liked the new market.

"I think the shops are cool," she said.

Greg Robinson-Riegler, who was using a mobility scooter to get around, said he appreciated the more open access of the new space.

"It's excellent for that. I feel like I'm on a highway," he said.

Sarah Morris of Roseville had the honor of being the first performer on the new Schell's Stage at the Schilling Amphitheater.

"I'm so excited. I'm a giant Fair junkie," she said. "The stage is beautiful. It sounds good up there."

Her friend Scholastica Baker of Roseville said she used to come to the fair when she was younger but hadn't been interested in coming back to the Fair lately.

"Now that I'm here at the West End I may change my mind," she said. "They've upgraded a lot."


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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

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