Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Red Owl in MN

I sell a photo of an old Red Owl spice tin I have. Many people have asked me if there are any Red Owl stores still around. I found online that they were bought out by SuperValu. And I assumed that all of the Red Owl stores are gone.

I'm driving around southern MN and I get the urge to head to Le Roy MN. It looks like it might be out of the way, but I go. I pull into town and I see the Red Owl store. The sign looks good - almost new. Could it be real?

Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

Apprehensively, I go in to the grocery store and see that the aisle signs are marked Brownlow's Red Owl.

Red Owl aisle sign, Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

I ask a clerk, (who is actually Kay the manager) is this a real Red Owl store? I expect the answer to be no but it is a real Red Owl. Kay shows me around the store and introduces me to her dad, Bob Brownlow, the owner. Her daughter is there. She shows me all the Red Owl products, signs, logos that she's collected over the years.

Red Owl ad and more, Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

I ask her how it worked since SuperValu owned Red Owl. She told me that they had actually taken down the sign worried that SuperValu would disapprove of them using it. They worked out a deal with SuperValu that lets them be a real Red Owl. In fact, if you call SuperValu asking where to find old Red Owl memorabilia - they'll direct you to Kay. In fact, if you've got any Red Owl branded items, send them to Brownlow's so they can add them their collection. Watch for the movie coming out, "A Serious Man," by the Cohen Brothers. One of the characters works in a Red Owl and many of Kay's items are in the film

Red Owl logo 1945, Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

You could spend hours there looking at how the logo changed, that Red Owl's Jello was just called Jel and the big watchful eyes of the owl back in the meat department.

Red Owl products, Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

Red Owl products, Brownlow's Red Owl, LeRoy, MN

I got a Brownlow's Red Owl t-shirt and I was proudly wearing it around. I was asked again if there are still Red Owl stores and instead of shrugging my shoulders, I told them to head south on Hwy 63 to Le Roy, MN and see one of the only two actual Red Owl stores still around. When you're there you can get your own t-shirt plus many other items with the Red Owl logo. You could even do your grocery shopping (they are a real grocery store) or just get a few things for a picnic.

They are up to date and have both a web site and they are on Facebook.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mister Mayo

Mister Mayo Jar 1970's
Originally uploaded by gregg_koenig
Yup, I am hanging out with Mr Mayo. His really name is Dr Locke who just gave a speech in Chicago about G.I. issues.

Waiting rooms are boring no matter how pretty they are.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - the unfair day 2

Last year, I was really desperate for other MN State fair items. I was researching how the fair looked when I first saw it in the late 1980s, which booths have changed or stayed the same. I took a trip over to the Minnesota History Center (I may know someone who was born in the parking lot there.) And they have a quite a treasure trove of books on the MN State Fair. I have the book, "Blue Ribbon," by Karal Ann Marling

and, "Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History,"
by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky

As well as, "Seed Queen," by Colleen Sheehy

and last but yeah least, "State Fair," by Susan Lambert Miller

Let me know if you need a hug or something to get you through until next year's MN State Fair.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - the unfair

I've been working on this photo for a few days. Finally - a good shot. I'd keep forgetting things like the rake or the cup holders. I have these items and just a few more to get me to next year's State Fair.

Monday, September 07, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 12


Doesn’t everyone want a blue ribbon? Even for the best food court.

1st Award Winning Food Court, MN State Fair

I’ve submitted art to the State fair’s art show almost every year I’ve been in this state and only a handful of times have I ever gotten in.

Best neon sign, MN State Fair

I’ve never received a blue ribbon but it is an honor to have your work hanging for the teeming millions to admire. I don't always agree with the judges.

Blue ribbon corn, MN State Fair

I didn't realize that the crop art winner this year was from Zambia. I have a hard enough time making the deadline and I live down the street from the fair.

Blue ribbon crop art, MN State Fair

From the Pioneer Press:
The story of how 22-year-old Obrien Shipeka's creation got here is almost as interesting as the picture itself: It involves U.S. government outreach, a portrait of President Barack Obama and a Web site dedicated to crop art.

"He's never been in Minnesota, never been in the United States. It's definitely the best piece of crop art in here," said Ron Kelsey, head of crop art contests at the Fair. "The fact that someone would send seed art from Africa and have it arrive in excellent condition, that is somewhat of a surprise."

Shipeka, contacted via e-mail, said the girl in the picture — titled "African Girl" — is his little sister. He spent a month working with millet seeds, roasting them in a hot pan to get the right colors.

He's one of the first to use the technique so extensively, Kelsey said.

"I have been working with seeds to create art for the past five years, since my high school days, with the help of my school art teachers," Shipeka said. "At the moment, I have no formal job, but I spend most of my time creating art through seeds."

The journey of "African Girl" started in Shipeka's hometown of Ndola, the second-largest city in Zambia. His art teacher and mentor there, Danny Chiyesu, read a U.S. Embassy newsletter about cultural outreach and programs.

He sent an e-mail to Sara Stealy, deputy public affairs officer, and attached a seed art portrait of President Barack Obama crafted by Shipeka.

"I was curious — and a little wary! — as I opened the attached photo," Stealy recalled in an e-mail to the Pioneer Press. "A seed mosaic of the president? But the quality completely blew me away, and I asked if I could see the mosaic in person."

Chiyesu journeyed to Lusaka, the capital city, with the picture.

"It was even more interesting in person, and I knew I had to have it!" Stealy said. As is custom in Zambia, Chiyesu asked her to make an offer for the work.

She talked with local contacts about a fair price and did some online research. That led her to, a site run by perennial crop art competitor and Pioneer Press employee David Steinlicht.

"It's the magic of the World Wide Web," Steinlicht said. "Everything's out there; everything's available 24 hours a day."

At the site, Stealy saw that the Fair has an annual competition for crop art.

She told Chiyesu on Aug. 1 about the contest, assuming he'd have Shipeka send something in next year.

But Chiyesu's brother, who works at a printing house run by Franciscan friars in the capital, was able to send out "African Girl" by carrier service. The work made the mid-August entry deadline.

Chiyesu checked the Minnesota State Fair Web site for results frequently, but Internet service in Zambia can be spotty, so he didn't find out about Shipeka's win until Monday. Judges gave it the highest score of all 150 entries this year, based on artistic merit, craftsmanship and compliance with the rules. Entries are displayed in the Agriculture-Horticulture building on the Fairgrounds.

"My reaction when I found out about the Fair results was a shock. I hardly could believe it," Shipeka said.

He won $40 for best out-of-state entry and will get a plaque for taking the best-in-show ribbon.

It is fun to get recognition for your work whether it be art, baked goods, animals, crops or what have you. I guess even having the most popular fair food or product would get you a blue ribbon of sorts. I award my own best of show to the newest fair product, the winner - Go Girl. Now I can pee standing up (I have yet to try it.)

There were two outstanding food items the Pot Roast Sundae...

Pot Roast Sundae, MN State Fair

...and the Deep Fried Norwegian Banana Split.

Deep Fried Norwegian Banana Split, MN State Fair

Banana Split photo courtesy of Twin Cities Metromix. Thank you for for photographing all the new state fair food.

The fair is winding down and everyone has to pack up. You get the chance to sell your blue ribbon item or just savior the recognition. Every year, they show a kid with the prize winning animal, they’re auctioning it off and the kid is both happy and sad. It is bittersweet, the end of the fair, saying goodbye to your prized thing that you worked so hard on, and the end of summer.

Horse and ribbons, MN State Fair

One last thing I love to do is to watch the final talent show at the Grand stand. They show the cream of the crop (ha) you see them perform and then they announce the winners. You get to watch this all inside the grandstand - usually you have to have a ticket to be inside. It is the best place to watch the fireworks.

Final talent show, MN State Fair

There’s the last fireworks show...

Fireworks, MN State Fair

...the grand finale and you then go home.

Grand finale fireworks, MN State Fair

One time, I was at the fair on the last day – the day started out hot and muggy – very summer like. Then it started raining and by the time I got home it was fall. I had to make a fire and eat soup because it had changed to fall in just a few hours. I can see that the weather will do that later in the week – the first cold and rainy days of the season are just ahead. Tomorrow- how to get through the rest of the unfair.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 11

I have never paid to see a big name performance at the State fair. I don’t see many concerts any more. I guess it’s never appealed to me because there is so many free concerts to see at the fair.

See Grandstand Show, MN State Fair

Pat and I missed out on some of animal barns because they closed early but we did see the rodeo at the coliseum. There were kids roping calves and also Tommie Turvey, the Equine Extremist,
“With his unique acts and his own show stopping style, Tommie Turvey is the most exciting and versatile equine entertainer in the industry. Featuring roman riding, bridle-less riding, and comedy antics that are the hottest and freshest entertainment around.
Tommie did some weird stuff, made out with the horse, he was under the horse doing unnatural things to it besides messing with the horse’s tail, and he crept under a box while the horse was on top of it. The horse was good sport while Tommie sat on the horse’s stomach and moved it’s legs around. I wish the horse had kicked the guy in the nuts. Seriously, the horse was funnier than Tommie. Watch him fall off a horse – here

James and I were researching who and what would be playing and we saw this band Alpensterne at the Leinie lodge. This is the blurb I read, "
"Alpensterne is a musically diversified group performing some of Germany’s most loved folk songs with the yodeling of Jim Strehlke. Jim mastered the art of yodeling from one of Germany’s finest, Sepp Diepolder. Alpensterne likes to involve the crowd by playing “name that tune” on the 15-foot Swiss Alphorn.”
Alpensterne at the Leinie Lodge, MN State Fair

They were pretty good. It was at the Leinie lodge, you need to drink one of Leinie’s “iced teas” as the lead singer was doing. Or as James is doing:

James and "iced tea" at  Leinie Lodge, MN State Fair

One funny moment – the band is playing Amazing Grace. It’s very solemn and sweet and suddenly the music stops. The singer interrupts the song to ask someone walking past the stage what they were eating. The person had a huge stack of some fried thing and yet, didn’t know or remember what it was. I’ve never seen obvious people watching from a performer. While on stage.

We saw Billy McLaughlin at the Heritage Square after dark. I had heard him play guitar for a quick second on tv and thought it might be a good concert. It was.

Paul Cebar at the Summit stage sounded really good but Pat and I were hunting down Nikki who had lost her cell phone. Luckily when we called “mom” on the lost cell phone – mom was with Nikki at the fair. They were so happy to get the cell phone back.

On the last night of the fair, I try to see the winners of the talent show. Then when it’s done, you get to see the last fireworks show inside from the grandstand seating. It’s all about talent – tomorrow.

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 10


I’ve heard stories of city kids who had no idea where their food comes from. Pat told me about being in a vet class at U of M and a teacher told a story of a student raising her hand and asking, “Why do we have to kill animals when you can go to store and just buy meat?” I do know that all the cute animals at the fair might end up in my mouth.

What the hay! MN State Fair

I don’t get many chances to pet a sleepy Brown Swiss...

Sleepy cow, MN State Fair

...or hear a barn full of lycra dressed sheep

Lycra sheep, MN State Fair

...or see a bunch of chickens and roosters – some with crazy Tina Turner hair and some with hairy feet.

Chicken hair, MN State Fair

Hairy chicken feet, MN State fair

I don’t get how you get used to the smell of a pig barn. We liked that there were a bunch of pigs from one farm that had Vikings players and cheerleaders for their names. Is it payback for them signing on Brett Favre?

Pat the pig, MN State Fair

I've never seen a rat in a barn before - but one bored kid put a rubber one on a string and rigged it so he could drop it on unsuspecting victims. It was funny to watch.

Rat in barn, MN State Fair

Animals more on my level are at the Pet Center. We wanted to watch a dog do agility training but the trainer wanted to bore both the audience and the patient dog with explanations not demonstration. I hope that poor dog isn’t still sitting there waiting for the ball to be thrown.

Tomorrow I have a story about a comedy act that involved a horse and a guy and the horse was funnier than the human.

Friday, September 04, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 9

Signs and graphic elements
Everyone knows how much I dig nearly any kind of sign or roadside attraction. I already posted two photos that are a compilations of my favorite neon fair signs. There are other graphic elements and signs around the fair that you might not notice.

In 1966, Fairchild the gopher became the official mascot of the State. Fairchild (a play on the institution’s title) got his name after a state-wide naming contest. It is also a tribute to Henry S. Fairchild, the man who suggested the Ramsey County Poor Farm become the permanent site of the State Fair

Fairchild the MN State Fair Mascot

There's this hidden gem. Steichen's. It’s a cute little store hidden off the main drag and just covered in signs.

Steichen's MN State Fair

One of the world’s greatest fair signs promotes itself. I can’t speak for the product, but the sign rocks day and night. And spins.

World's Greatest Fries sign, MN State Fair

Those Pronto Pup arrows (but not the stands) are sadly long gone and also some recording that used to tell you to "Get yourself a Pronto Pup"

Pronto Pup sign

Some of the buildings have some interesting elements inside and out – like the chickens on the poultry building:

Chicken motif detail poultry barn, MN State fair

the L’etoile du Nord the MN State seal:

L'etoile du Nord on Hort Ag building, MN State Fair

And a wheat motif on the Horticulture building:

Hort Ag Building detail, MN State Fair

I am a big fan of the big wooden, art deco letters in the Horticulture building. The sign for crop art is art in itself.

Crop art room, MN State Fair

These garbage cans are getting more and more scarce. I found these in the parking lot across from the fair.

Litter is a slap in America's face

Use the bean keep it clean

Stash your trash right here

I don’t know why but the arrows in the Creative Arts building remind me of Grandma’s basement shuffle board game. This way to the egress.

Exit sign arrows, Creative Arts Building, MN State Fair

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 8


One wouldn’t think about architecture at a state fair but there’s quite a variety at the MN State Fair. The Minnesota State Fair Foundation has this great walking tour of some of the buildings on the State Fairgrounds. Check out their brochure that include some of these buildings.

Starting with the oldest, the Fine Arts and Progress buildings were both built in 1907. Your art gets to be shown in an work of art. If you’re lucky enough to make the cut.

This cute yellow J.V. Bailey House was built in 1911 was formerly the Greenhouse Superintendent's Quarters. Now it's the home of the MN State Fair Foundation. I'm not sure how, but I want to live in it – they just did a big renovation and it looks beautiful. Wouldn't it be cool to live in the fairgrounds.

It is so hokey, but you have to take a ride on Ye Old Mill – built in 1913. In between looking at the displays you can make out with a loved one in the total darkness. Then go get some Tom Thumb mini donuts next door.

Ye Old Mill and Tom Thumb Donuts

I so love the Ag Hort building built in 1947 – I love the Art Deco look of it both inside and out. And not only does the big tower light up at night, it changes color. How cool is that!

Agriculture Horticulture building MN State Fair

Some buildings aren’t necessarily architectural wonders, but I love them anyway – like the former Spaghetti Village - now Spamville. Goodbye bland Italian food and crappy pizza hello spicy and deep fried Spam.

Spaghetti Village building, 2001, MN State Fair

There is the hideously 1970s Creative Arts building. Thanks MNHS:

Check out this site for more MN State Fair buildings. Tomorrow - graphic elements in the buildings I love.

MN State Fair Sonnet - Day 7

It's funny to think of actually learning something at the fair. It should just be a big snack and go on ride show. There are quite a few learning opportunities – the DNR fish tank and DNR building is a big draw. There's a very Bell Museum kind of animal diorama in the DNR building. I love it. At Heritage Square you can watch a blacksmith and woodturner and learn about newspaper printing – to name a few things. There’s the Miracle of Birth building to see things being squeezed out by animals. And there’s a farm for the city kids. I kinda dig the Territorial Pioneers Museum (they don’t promote it well at the fair on the web) and the State fair history museums because they're old and dusty never change.

Some things are just soft selling products; the new Eco Experience building has all sorts of green stuff to learn about and also has sales reps on hand to sell you the recycled glass counter tops flooring and electric cars. Everyone’s gotta make a buck, somehow.

Long ago, there was a Betty Crocker demo kitchen in the Creative Activities building. It was great – women in aprons making stuff from mixes or canning. Pretty dry stuff. I have some of the recipe brochures they handed out. You wonder why it fell out of favor. Maybe because the core audience was dying out, literally. So Betty packed up and they needed new fresh talent to liven up the joint. They ask Klecko, master baker from Saint Agnes bakery because he knows everyone in the twin cities food biz. And his show is the best at the fair. I’ve even been a guest at his demo kitchen explaining to the crowd about ice cream trucks and novelties. Pictured is Klecko in the State fair demo kitchen.