Shenandoah – Leinie Lodge Stage – Minnesota State Fair – August 26th 2021

Lens on Music at the Fair – Day 1  Shenandoah

Review and photos by Patrick Dunn

A day where Minnesotans (along with all our neighbors from surrounding areas) could have an opportunity to GET-BACK-TOGETHER at the state fair finally arrived Thursday, August 26th.  While major news outlets will be trying to draw people’s attention to the overarching question as to whether this is a good idea or not amidst a pandemic, my lens will be focused on the positive impact of music at the fair.

Lay of the Land
Ticketed Shows:  Acts with top billing perform at the Grandstand, with a different line-up each of the 12 nights of the fair.  These shows require a purchase of tickets beyond your general admission to the fair.

Free Stages:  There’s a great deal of music being performed throughout the fairgrounds each day that is included in your price of admission.  The best way to plan for what is taking place during the time you will be at the fairgrounds is to reference the schedule on the official State Fair website. Unlike the Grandstand, acts scheduled for the free stages perform in 2-day blocks so you have more than one chance at seeing them.

I recommend starting with the Leinie Lodge Bandshell Stage where you can pick from nationally established acts with some local artists also mixed in.  This stage also hosts the preliminary rounds of the MSF Amateur Talent contest each day at 6:00pm leading up to the finals that take place on the Grandstand stage a night before the fair closes out.

Make sure to also catch a show at the Shell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater, which hosts primarily local talent.

Another worthy spot where I’ve gone in many times not knowing what to expect and walked away pleasantly surprised is The International Bazaar Stage.  Go there to broaden your music palate.

Beyond that, there are other stages that host a variety of entertainment (Cosgrove Stage, Family Fair Stage, Ramberg Music Café Stage, The North Woods Stage) and it is worth checking out Radio Station booths that may have random pop-up acoustic sets, which is always a fun to get a little different perspective on the music.

Opening Day:  Considering the current drought-stricken conditions across most of Minnesota, any chance of rain is a gift, but it’s hard not to be frustrated with the timing as it did impact opening day at the fair.  After waiting out a severe storm system early afternoon, I was able to be part of an audience that was treated to a really enjoyable throw-back 90’s Country music set from Shenandoah.  Singer, Marty Raybon seemed genuinely excited to be there and showed off his recognizable vocal tone on their hits “The Church of Cumberland Road”, “Sunday in the South” and “Two Dozen Roses”.

A second wave of storms rolled through just prior to the scheduled Grandstand performance by Miranda Lambert with supporting artist Lindsay Ell, which required a temporary evacuation of the venue.

Thank goodness after a somewhat lengthy delay, they were still able get Lambert onstage to perform, especially since many of the fans were ticket-holders for the show originally scheduled for last years fair that did not take place.

The weather did also impact scheduled shows by Sister Sledge, Davina and the Vagabonds, Jaybee and the Routine.  Fortunately, there is another chance to catch these acts today, but that also comes with another chance of rain later in the day when many of these shows are scheduled.