Local Current Blog

The Hangar: New State Fair venue honors Minnesota’s aviation history with food, craft beer, and music

The Hangar is serving up "craft flights & tasty bites" at the Minnesota State Fair (Colleen Cowie for MPR).

This year, the State Fair debuted a new venue on the north end: the Hangar. The building, which used to be the Pet Center, has been transformed into a hub for food, craft beer, and live entertainment. The Hangar also nods to the building’s history as the location of the State Fair Aircraft Shows in the early 1900s.

The decision to repurpose the building is part of a larger effort to re-energize the Fair’s north end, which hasn’t drawn much traffic (at least, by State Fair standards) in recent years.

The Pet Center was also in need of a new space, as the existing building was too small and too hot to accommodate both pets and commercial exhibits. The Fair decided to relocate the Pet Center to two open-air pavilions, leaving the old building vacant.

Stephanie and Nate Janousek have owned the Texas Steak Out at the Fair for the past nine years. The couple proposed the idea for a new food, beer, and music venue at the Fair, without knowing of the newly available building. After learning about the space and its history in State Fair aviation, the couple decided to repurpose it as the Hangar.

Stephanie Janousek explained that coming up with the name “the Hangar” was a no-brainer. “[The building] was originally built in 1909, so we knew with that much history in it, and just looking in the building, that it could easily be converted into something that resembled more of an airplane-hangar type feel,” she said.

Although the building was constructed in 1909, it served a number of purposes in its first few years. The first State Fair Aircraft Show was held in 1921, and by the late ’20s, the building had been converted into the permanent Aircraft Show Building.

“At that time aviation was the cutting-edge technology. That’s what people came to see, because they had never seen an airplane, or even knew what one was,” said Dennis Larson, license administration manager for the Fair. “The first time that an aircraft ever took off or landed in Minnesota was at the State Fair.”

In the 1929 State Fair Annual Report, Superintendent Ray S. Miller describes some of the activities that took place in the Aircraft Show Building. 12 planes were on display, including a glider built by two Minnesota teenagers. KSTP conducted a live broadcast from the building, which included “musical programs” and news of the Fair. There was a giant observation balloon and a “Goddess of the Sky” pageant.

When drafting plans for the Hangar, the Janouseks knew that they wanted to incorporate touches from the building’s past. They were given access to the State Fair’s archive, and drew inspiration from the photos that they found.

All of the graphics that adorn the banners, sings, and counters in the Hangar showcase images from the archives. One of the photos showed flags hung from the rafters, so the couple decided to include flags in the new design as well. The Janousecks also added hangar doors on the east and west ends of the building and roll-up doors on each side to add to the hangar effect.

The Hangar’s decor incorporates elements of the building’s past, while giving it a modern update. The building maintains a sleek and industrial appearance with an abundance of stainless steel and concrete and a minimal color scheme of white, blue, and red.

Inside, there is a food counter, which features items such as smoked turkey legs, brisket sandwiches, and slider flights (brisket, burger, and pulled pork). For a different kind of flight, you can head to the craft beer counter, which is the only location in the Fair other than the Agriculture Building where you can find flights of craft beer from the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.

Across from the beer counter is a stage for live music. Katy Vernon is performing a solo set at the Hangar on Sunday from 3:30-6:30.

Vernon has performed at the Fair before, and says that she looks forward to playing at the family-friendly environment. “I really think my music resonates with different age groups,” she said. “There aren’t many any other venues that have that same kind of audience, and I really enjoy that.”

At last year’s Fair, Vernon visited The Current’s booth for a performance hosted by Mark Wheat. The performance was Vernon’s first time playing with her full band. She also launched the Kickstarter campaign for her album Suit of Hearts during the live broadcast. Vernon shared one of the album’s songs, “Look to the Sea,” in a Sky Ride Session with The Current.

Katy Vernon took a ride with us for this year's first Sky Ride Session! She's playing her new song "Look to the Sea," from her forthcoming album "Suit of Hearts." See Katy play on Friday on the Schell's Stage, and then, also Friday, at the Minnesota Public Radio booth with Mark Wheat at 4:30 p.m.!

Posted by The Current on Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vernon is still working on Suit of Hearts, which she hopes to release soon. While the album is still in the works, performing at the Fair provides her with an opportunity to try out some of the new songs.

“It’s great to test out new material,” said Vernon. “I have songs that are going to be on the album, but I haven’t played them live that much, so it’s fun seeing how those resonate with people.”

However, you can expect to hear more than just new material from Vernon on Sunday. “With a three-hour show I’m going to be digging deep,” she said. “So they’ll be hearing stuff from all two records [Present and Before I Forget] that I’ve made, and some fun covers.”

Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.