Tomorrow is the opening day of this year's State Fair and that usually means a big crowd. I know of a number of people in the neighborhood who try to schedule their vacation during fair time to avoid the traffic and noise. We aren't always here for the festivities, but after 33 years or so in the community, I still haven't grown tired of the "Great Minnesota Get-together" because it is just that: people coming from all over the state and region to celebrate all of our wonderful resources in a friendly community gathering. 

Also, once a year, St. Anthony Park and other neighborhoods around the fair get to show off to a million folks and it works: I have heard from neighbors that one of the reasons they moved here was due to driving through it on the way to the fair and thinking what a great place it would be to live. By the way, this year the new western entrance to the fair has moved from Commonwealth to Buford and it's for bikes and peds only, cars have to enter by Larpenteur, Snelling or Como. The old Commonwealth gate will only be used for service vehicles as all buses heading to the fair will be routed onto the transitway rolling right by that entrance and into the new bus drop-off zone in the west parking lot. There's a good article in the Bugle if you want to find out more or visit the state fair web site for a map. It will be interesting to see how that all works out.

If there is a downside to all this activity, it's that our local merchants generally do not benefit from any additional business and, in fact, business during the state fair tends to be pretty slow. It's understandable, what with all the spending that goes on at the fair and the unique nature of their dining selections, still it's worth knowing that our merchants could use a little love during the next two weeks.

Coincidentally, tomorrow night is our last Park B4 Dark of the summer, a chance to avoid the fair hubbub and escape to those lovely shops and restaurants that offer sweet order and hospitality. Music, specials and neighbors...you've heard about "staycations" so, why not take some time tomorrow evening from 5-8pm to kick off two weeks of finding time to take a break from the fair and "stayplay" with your community retailers. Watch the madness float by as you relax in our lovely little corner of the world.

An added bonus at this Park B4 Dark is a chance to meet the finalists of the Foundation's 15th Anniversary Grant Challenge who will be set up in front of Milton Square to tell you about their proposals and solicit your vote. Shakespeare in the Park, Transition Towns or the Mid-Oceanic tutors, someone is going to receive $15,000 to bring their idea to life. Look for the bright sign and make your voice heard. If you can't make it or want to find out more about the proposals, go to the foundation Grant Challenge web page, then fill out the brief form (just enough info to make sure everyone votes just once) and...vote!

The winner will be announced at the Foundation's big community Anniversary Party on September 15 at the Urban Growler Brewery in SSA. The party starts at 7pm with music from local favorites Sweet Rhubarb, followed by a brief program at 8pm to celebrate our anniversary and reaching our $1M Endowment fund pledge goal - woohoo! Then comes a special Trivia contest featuring teams of neighbors vying for community savant bragging rights - wagering allowed. (Everyone who picks the winning team will have their tickets put in a raffle to get a shot at gift cards and prizes.) Topping off the night will be a concert by former neighbors Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapels, now performing under the name, Field Trip. The festivities will include Bang Brewery right next door and other surprises, so plan to come. Admission is free, you pay for the beer and delicious Growler food.

On September 6, 11-4pm come to the C4Ward activity at the intersection of Raymond & University to soak up the creative and artistic energy that abounds in this area. Watch artists battle it out at the temporary table tennis trailer (and play a few games yourself), join the SPARKit for a mobile art project game parlor, create a postcard on an antique letter press, listen to local music, watch a live woodworker showdown, and see stilt characters saunter on parade. Stop at Keys, Biaggio's or Foxy Falafel for a bite to eat, Round Table Coffee for a pick me up, shop at all the great vintage shops (Succotash, Shag, Barely Bros. and Agharta Records, MidModMen and the newest addition - JunkLove) at a summer sidewalk sale, and pick up that hardware you need at Noll's. On your way home, stop at Urban Growler and Bang breweries for a hoppy brew then finish off the night at the Dubliner listening to live Irish and original music. For more info.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the community blood drive on Tuesday Sept 2the day after Labor Day, from 2:00 - 7:00 PM at SAP Lutheran Church at 2323 Como Ave. You can set up a time by going online to redcrossblood.org and using zip code 55108 with the date or call Joy at 651-644-8833.

Peapods Natural Toys & Babycare have the new locally made YOXO toys and the Robeez Fall collection in store! I have no idea what that all means as my children are grown and there are no grandchildren yet, but I think it's a really creative toy line and booties. Check out there website for more info.

Nice article in Minnpost on our newest charter school in the CEZ, Urban Boatbuilders. It's a great program just a block away from the Raymond Ave Station teaching kids how to build boats while mixing in the necessary high school academic requirements.

Cindy Thrasher is looking for tutors for her Murray Middle School tutoring programPlease consider volunteering with their students any day of the week (Monday through Friday) and any hour between 11:15 am and 2:00 pm. Training is provided. Contact Cindy Thrasher, Pilot One-on-One Tutoring Coordinator, call 651.293.874 or email Cindy. 

Rose Gregoire is collecting any vegetable overabundance (tomatoes, zucchini, beans) you might have to take to the local Keystone food shelf.  You can leave any of these fresh vegetables on the benches next to the SAP Garden sign on Robbins Street (just over the RR tracks between N & SSA by 10 am Mondays and she will take it over. Here's a link to an article from MN2020 about the ongoing relationship between the gardens and food shelf. Thanks, Rose!

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.