Local Current Blog

Minnesota State Fairgrounds GLOW with Prince tribute as part of holiday lights festival

Photos by Jay Gabler/MPR

Imagine yourself years from now, walking through a Minnesota State Fair that’s back in action and packed once more. You might be talking to your kids, or grandkids, or some other young whippersnapper who doesn’t remember Covid Time.

“We drove down Wright Avenue,” you’ll say, “and all the cars stopped to watch the 4H Building, which had been turned into Tinsel Tower! We saw panoramic views of Christmas celebrations in all the foreign countries that weren’t letting Americans in that year. Then we turned left and there in front of us was a giant Love Symbol, pulsing in a rainbow of color…and ‘Darling Nikki’ was playing.”

GLOW Holiday Festival isn’t a religious display, but it’s not without sites of devotion. There’s the creche containing a sow and piglets, illuminated from within their full bellies by star-sparkling lights. There’s the concluding slideshow, where drivers pause to contemplate images of yesteryear’s more freewheeling winter celebrations. Then, most importantly, there’s the Prince glyph positioned in front of the Eco Experience building, a medley of hits rumbling through the windows of sedans and pickups and SUVs.

I didn’t catch any hints of Prince’s one Christmas song, but its theme wouldn’t be particularly appropriate for an event intended to give Minnesotans a chance to come together – safely shielded and distanced – for a festive display unlike any the State Fairgrounds have ever seen.

There’s a forest of towering ice shards (gen Z will think of Frozen, gen X will remember Superman II). There’s a giant disco ball to drive your vehicle under. And…what’s this? Why, there’s Babe the Blue Ox leading Santa’s reindeer, their traces leading back to the Wagon Wheel Stage. Is the Lil’ Farmstead full of livestock lit up like they’re on Clark Griswold’s Funny Farm? Need you ask?

If you’re already salivating for cheese curds, fear not: there’s a drive-through food court at the end of the experience. Bring your masks and your patience; it takes about 30-40 minutes to drive through the lights, and it may take more to make your way through the several vendors.

The attraction is open through January 3, and a portion of most nights’ proceeds support various charitable causes. Music fans concerned about the fate of independent venues will be pleased to know that Thanksgiving eve, designated Prince Night, is already sold out: ticket sales that night benefit NIVA, an association that includes the Kid’s favorite club.