Iconic cheese curd booth given the boot at MN State Fair

The ‘original’ cheese curd stand at the Minnesota State Fair will be history soon.

Dick and Donna Mueller started the cheese curd craze with an iconic yellow building on Dan Patch Avenue, but they’re ready to retire.

“I think we’re part of the history and you want to continue it with your family if you can,” Mueller told KARE 11, which reported the story first.

But the State Fair reportedly won’t allow their son to take it over, citing policy.

No curds? Oh, no whey!

Fair general manger Jerry Hammer told MPR News’ Tim Nelson that he knows the change has left some hard feelings, but the Muellers weren’t as clear as they could have been about their intentions.

But Gerry Johnson, who has run the Swivel Spray booth in the grandstand area for 30 years, is retiring also. Her daughter told me in an email today that she, too, has been prevented from turning the location over to her children.

“We were all so disappointed,” daughter Janet Hathaway said. “We’ll always be State Fair fans.”

“We generally appreciate the longevity of the prior operator, but we want to look in a new direction if that opportunity presents itself,” Jim Sinclair, deputy fair GM told KARE. “There will still be plenty of cheese curds on the fairgrounds.”

But not those cheese curds.

Let’s think about this with this observation: Sweet Martha can’t go on forever.

Does tradition count for nothing?

The cheese curd stand will be turned over to a bacon vendor.

  • MrE85
  • Gary F

    Sweet Martha has a lock on the chocolate chip cookie game at the fair,. There is more than one cheese curd vendors at the fair,. A certain amount of people are tired of the same old foods every year and presenting new items is a big deal. Just see how much media play is given to the new items each summer. And some folks come there for the old favorites. Life goes on, and the fair will continue to draw lots of people with money in their pockets to spend.

    • The “food arms race” in this town is fascinating.

    • Agree with Gary that Sweet Martha’s isn’t going to be treated this same way. If the Fair didn’t have the Mouth Trap in the Food Building, I would bet that the Muellers would have been allowed to pass their business on to their son. Which is too bad because the Original Cheese Curds are definitely the better version.

    • tboom

      Sort of like the ballpark in town, every spring highly publicized new (fat filled) foods sitting beside all the old (fat filled) favorites.

      Pro ball: Junk food with bad baseball on the side.
      State Fair: Junk food with oldies concerts on the side.

      • Gary F

        Most of the year the local media rides their high horse telling us what we are and are not supposed to eat.

        Then, in mid August, they tell us how great french fried opossum on a stick, deep fired butter on a stick, or deep fried and battered kale on a stick.

        • Rob

          If you aren’t consuming young soybeans and a carrot smoothie every day, you’re taking several years off of your life, mos’ def.

        • I’ve never told you what to eat, for the record. Although I can see where people might offer you a suggestion or two.

      • Rob


  • John

    it’s evolution/natural selection – cheese curds -> bacon.

    I look forward to the next evolutionary step – bacon wrapped cheese curds.

    • Kimberly Spurgeon


    • Noelle

      I’d eat it.

  • MrE85

    For me, it’s roast corn. It’s just not the Fair w/o it. Mrs. Lungs fav is the classic Pronto Pup.

  • Rob

    I am curdled up with outrage about the Fair Board’s decision. However, I do look forward to sampling whatever new food monstrosity is offered by the vendors who take over the space. I hope it’s something with a super-hot pepper included!

  • Scott Bender

    Ah yes, bacon. There’s something never before seen at the Fair.

    • Carlton Schaps

      Hope it’s better than Big Fat Bacon which is damp and disgusting.

      • d3photography.com

        It’s the same people but in a permanent position.

  • CHS

    Was this always fair policy? Seem to remember that booths staying in families was what BLM was protesting last year because it limits opportunity for access. Or am I not remembering that right….

    • BJ

      You remember correct-ish.

    • FatimaSewingCircle

      Ummmm…no, that’s not right. BLM was protesting violence against black people/police profiling etc. The group was not inside the fairgrounds at all. There was one guy who got a booth inside the fair (not officially affiliated with BLM, but sharing some of their materials at the booth. Whether the matter might have come up around him I don’t know, but the BLM protest wasn’t about Fair booth policies; it was about black people DYING.

  • d3photography.com

    Sinclair who?

    • Bob Sinclair

      Lewis? Broadcasting? Gasoline? The city in Wyoming?

      • d3photography.com

        That’s my point… Bob copied and pasted the text and didn’t update the name… it’s just “Sinclair” in the reference.

        Must be like Cher or Prince.

        • Bob Sinclair

          Or “Bob”

          • d3photography.com

            Jim “Bob” Sinclair?

  • Jack Ungerleider

    I wonder if this is a situation that may be solved for some vendors by the legal organization of the business. If the business is a corporation (in this case if it was Mueller’s Fried Cheese, inc.) then they could transfer ownership of the corporation to the son and the booth is still operated by the same business “owner”. That is what might keep Sweet Martha’s and some of the other bigger vendors around past the retirement of their original principle owners.

  • Pauline Rohrman

    Enough with “iconic”! Get real! It’s a shabby yellow shack where people peddle chunks of milk that have been curdled by the enzymes of ruminating mammals.

    • Why do you hate Minnesota, Pauline? :*)

    • Rob

      I’ve never heard a more mouth-watering description of cheese curds.

    • Carlton Schaps

      But even you have to admit it’s a dick move to kick out a booth that’s been popular for 42 years.

  • Donald Jeronimus

    It is time for Jim Sinclair to be replaced.

  • Alisha Seifert

    Their logic is severely flawed. Pronto Pups and corn dogs pepper the fairgrounds, serving both nearly identical products in multiple places but often in stands that have been “gasp!” handed down to family members. Can we expect Sweet Martha’s large locations to also be converted to something new when Martha decides to retire? There are some serious politics at play here and it smells of sour milk. Curdled milk, in fact.

  • Warren Case

    A corporation goes on forever- so they get a lock forever. Families get shut out.