Pay to the Order Of: State Fair Entrepreneurs

We all get excited about new food and shopping opportunities at the Minnesota State Fair. The students in Pay to the Order Of have some creative and innovative new offerings for this August.

“Soviet Cakes is a tribute to the Soviet Union for helping us in World War II,” said Tate. The booth sells yellow cake cupcakes with yellowish and strawberry frostings and a raspberry on top. The store flies Soviet flags and includes outdoor and indoor seating.

Tate feels passionately about his business. “I wanted to do a tribute for something,” he explained. “The Soviets helped us in World War II against the Nazis, to help us not get taken over by Nazis. Hitler was a terrible person.”

Matthew pulled a detailed State Fair map out of his cardboard portfolio. “It’s right by the Mighty Midway,” he said, pointing to a prime location on the map. The team had also figured out the best places for customers to park.

While the cupcakes were Matthew’s idea, Tate ended up baking them. “I came up with the idea, but I allowed him to make them,” he said, pointing at Tate.

Willow contributed to the interior design of the business. “They allowed me to bring in some of my doll furniture,” she said. She showed me a fully apportioned bathroom and kitchen complete with necessary appliances.

For Tate, this is no childish fantasy. “In the future, I want to design the actual business of Soviet Cakes,” he said.

Kieran, Firdawsa, and Logan’s fair business is “a booth for ice cream,” Kieran said. “There is a cookie on top, a cookie on the bottom, and ice cream filling.”

They plan to call their booth, Cookie Sandwich. “We figure out how much profit we’re making, where we’re going to put our shop, and what it’s going to look like,” said Kieran.

Alec, Aiden, and Jackson came up with an entirely new business model for the State Fair.

“It’s based off the tabletop adventure game Dungeons and Dragons,” Alec proudly explained. “We’re selling things that have to do with the game.”

Fair goers can enter the business and join in at the gaming table. Alec and Aiden realized as they described the set up that it might be difficult to maintain the game at all times.

“We won’t always have an active campaign running,” Alec mentioned.

“We should have an hourly shift,” Aiden suggested.

The sales floor of the business is organized into categories. “Over here is ancient ruins to buy,” Alec said. They also run a daily talk show about gaming.

They have created a logo, picked monster nicknames, and planned a uniform to wear when they’re on duty.

Parker, Ava, and Elle have marketed their product – multi-colored elephants – to children. “They are sweets that are shaped as elephants, any treat you can think of,” Parker said. “Our target for buyers is kids.”

But unlike the other groups, profit is not a primary concern of their business. “We don’t really expect to make a lot of money. We hope we get money, but that’s not really our target,” Ava said. “We just want people to come, eat, and have fun.”

Eating and having fun – I think they’ve captured the true spirit of the State Fair experience.


El Mercado: Día de Muertos In Living Color

Alia handled the tiny white skull delicately. “They are skulls for Day of the Dead,” she said. “You would make your own skull and you would give it to a friend or a family.”

The skulls, molded from sugar and glue, “are kind of like a Valentine,” Alia said. “They have something to remember their family. They would put it out for them.”

The Mexican tradition often involves a culinary version (sugar minus the glue). “There are ones that you can eat, but these kind stay longer,” Alia said. She painted her skull with colorful flowers.

Avery said the skulls are usually decorated in bright colors instead of dark and scary colors. Hers was festooned in feathers. “I chose feathers because I really like feathers and I’m making hair out them and glitter to make them shiny,” she said.

Millie’s skull featured long orange and yellow yarn hair plus a bit of bling. “I just tried to make it sparkly, so there is lots of glitter,” she said.

The name “Hagen” was written on the forehead of her sugar skull. “I made it for my teacher,” Millie said.

Theo said that instead of being scary, like Halloween, Dia de Muertos is a time to honor those who have died. “The skulls can be brought to a family of someone who died,” he said. “They put up pictures of them and their favorite food. They put the skulls around for decoration.”

Landon added: “They do things to turn the day into fun,” instead of being sad.

Landon was excited to share another craft with us. His rainbow painted hedgehog (or spikey porcupine) is an example of Oaxacan folk art wood carvings.

“It’s an alebrijes,” Landon said. “It’s a spiritual animal. If you die, he always saves your life.”

Landon said the carvings have the power to gain a special ability. “I don’t know what it is yet, but I hope they turn into propellers.” He pointed to the brightly colored spiky toothpicks sticking out of the back of his hedgehog.

To further the students’ Spanish language acquisition as well as introduce them to Latin cultures, the class is reading a book called La Pinata de Renata.

“This girl Renata gets a pinata…and she flies to different Spanish countries to explore them,” recounted Eden. (I missed the part about how getting the pinata results in travel, but maybe there was some magic involved?)

One thing she learned from the book is that the people in some Spanish-speaking countries eat octopus. “It’s very popular,” she said. “I really want to try it. It probably tastes like chicken.”

Eden was cutting out an image of a skeleton wearing an oversized flowery hat, another decoration for Day of the Dead. “I made it of my grandma and it’s for my grandma,” Eden said. She assures me that grandma is very much alive.

Go West, Young Woman

In the class Go West, Young Woman, students sat on the floor as teacher Rhonda Lajko reminded them about basic grammar rules. The impromptu lesson was reminiscent of a one-room schoolhouse of the 1800s, students of different ages gathered around a teacher at the board.

After the grammar reminders, Ryley returned to her saloon. Uh, her cardboard box saloon, the business that would become a part of an Old West town. Each student created a shop or other building that would have been common in a new pioneer settlement.

Ryley folded a tiny piece of paper into a cube. “I’m trying to make a dice,” she said, a die to go with her teeny, tiny deck of cards, game pieces that would feature in Yee Old Saloon.

“It’s a place guys would go to get beer and they played cards and sometimes got into fights,” Ryley said about her saloon. “Women weren’t allowed in because they weren’t allowed to drink whiskey or wine.”

Her Saloon will sit near Tasha’s Hotel, where owner Natasha was getting ready to decorate the interior. She cut a paisley print fabric in rich blues and reds you might see in Victorian decor. “I’m going to carpet the hotel,” she said, opening her box to show the inside. “There will be a bed, a lamp, maybe a warmer stove.”

Natasha also planned to make paper people to populate her hotel. “I have a lot of cousins and they will love to play with it.”

Ania’s calico bonnet hung from her neck and flopped against her back. I was suddenly transported back to elementary school when I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Laura was always being scolded for not keeping her bonnet on to protect her face from the sun. With modern sunscreens, Ania’s bonnet could be worn purely for fun.

Ania was in charge of the Dry Goods Store that would carry “a lot of sewing stuff. It’s kind of like dry materials, like fabric and needles,” she said. “They would do a lot of sewing. These days we can go in a store and buy clothes, but they would have to make them.”

Ania said she was kind of like the pioneer children because her mom sews many of her clothes.

Annalee’s Old West business was an Ice Cream Shop. “There wasn’t like modern flavors then,” she said. “They cut ice out of frozen ice in lakes in the winter. They put it in an icebox and put the ice cream on top” to keep it frozen.

To learn about the cultures of some immigrant pioneers, the students created small replica Maypoles.

“In Sweden there would be one day in summer where it’s light out all day,” Annalee explained. “They would dance around the Maypoles. They are decorated with streamers, flowers, and floral stuff.”

It’s a practice, she said, that “some Swedish people might still do.”

It’s Greek to Me: And you thought your family was chaotic

Noe introduced us to the very complicated family tree of the Greek Gods created by the students in It’s Greek to Me. “Chaos is at the top,” Noe said. She pointed to a drawing of a god holding a bunch of grapes and a wine glass. “I made Dionysus, the God of Wine, and Pan, the God of Nature. Pan is normally overlooked by humans because he’s a minor god,” she said.

Leo and Jordan knew a lot about Chaos and why he headed the family tree. “We made a pennant on Chaos,” said Jordan. “He controls the chaotic forces of the universe.”

“Chaos created the universe,” said Leo. “He’s really powerful.”

“He was the origin of everything, the first god,” Jordan added. It seems the Greeks were responsible for a lot of “firsts.”

Today students created fresco art hangings. “On Crete with the Minoans – the first Greek civilization – there were many different forms of art, and fresco was one of the them,” said Noe. Fresco is a painting done rapidly in watercolor on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colors penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries.

Logan explained the process. “We pick out our mold, pour the plaster in, and poke a string into the wet plaster,” he said.

Logan gently pounded his mold on the table top to remove air bubbles in the plaster while it dried. He and his tablemates filled a plastic frisbee with blobs of paint in preparation. Logan planned to paint an abstract design that represented the symbol of Hades. Hades, he said, is the God of the Underworld, God of the Dead.

Noe planned to paint her fresco with a spider symbolizing Arachne. “Arachne shamed the gods so Athena turned her into a spider. The very first spider!”

Joanna decided to go beyond Greek mythology in her projects. Her fresco would feature an eye. “The eye of Horus in Egyptian mythology is a very popular protection symbol,” she said. A bit of Norse mythology might be thrown in as well, with images that represent the saying an eye for an eye, talons for hooks.

Kachi painted blue shapes onto his soft plaster. The picture was not related to mythology, he said, “just whatever I want.”

Joryn also went with a more personal image. “I’m doing a softball theme, but first I’m making little sprinkles of color.” She held her paint brush horizontally and tapped on it to splatter paint drops onto the fresco.

“Fresco was very popular,” with the Greeks, Elise said. “Artists wanted to go bigger for decorations. They painted on the walls to show off to their friends, ‘Look at my new frescoes!'” she teased.