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Minnesota state fair brings faith leaders, politicians together for 12-day celebration

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As the sun rose on an unusually steamy opening day of the Minnesota State Fair, Jeff Knott and his two daughters joined the already long breakfast line outside the Hamline Church Dining Hall.

The Lutheran family, at the fair to show the teen girls’ pigs Billy and Lil’ Red, favor this Methodist all-volunteer diner for its early opening, variety of foods including the signature “hamloaf” sandwich, and religious mission.

“They use their proceeds for mission work, which I think is important,” Knott said before the family bowed their heads to say grace at the hall’s bustling tables. “Can’t get deep fried Oreos, though,” quipped Elsie Knott, 13.

Faith offerings are plentiful and deep-rooted at the late-summer agricultural fairs that, nationwide, bring together 4-H children parading their prize animals and political candidates unleashing their ambitions.

Here in the middle of the Twin Cities, in addition to two church dining halls that have served up hot meals for a combined 200 years, there are fairgrounds Sunday services, booths handing out free Bibles or Qurans, and a stage for Christian bands beside the rides.

With pre-pandemic attendance surpassing two million — in a state with 5.7 million residents — the fair gives religious leaders a unique opportunity to showcase their hospitality and offer a rapidly disappearing slice of Americana to an increasingly diverse crowd.


“Service is my love language,” said Stephanie Engebrecht, a first-time dining hall volunteer and staff member at Hamline United Methodist Church in St. Paul.

“Any time you work hard at something, you can’t help bonding with people,” Engebrecht added, refilling coffee cups for a couple who first came to the fair together on their honeymoon 62 years ago.

This dining hall, founded in 1897, and the smaller one run by Minneapolis’ Salem Lutheran Church, are the sole survivors of what a century ago was a thriving scene catering to farmers who came to display the cream of their crops, livestock and crafts.

“There was very spirited bidding by Twin Cities churches to be at the fair. Churches were built on state fair dining hall money,” said Jane McClure, Hamline Church’s historian. Fair fundraising remains important, helping finance homeless and food ministries in the churches’ neighborhoods.

The dining halls also preserve that fast-disappearing agrarian atmosphere, said Chris Gehrz, a history professor at nearby Bethel University who regularly attends the fair with his family.

Minnesota fair

The evangelical Crossroads Chapel tent, which distributes thousands of free Bibles during the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, is shown on Aug. 24, 2023.  (AP Photo/Giovanna DellOrto)

“It’s something quasi-religious, having this ritual,” Gehrz said, adding that outright proselytizing has been tightly regulated since a 1981 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found the fair could restrict the Hare Krishna society from distributing literature about their faith.

At the dining halls, the religious touch is light — a few prayer signs on the walls, “pastor” name tags worn by leaders as they serve Swedish meatballs or dill pickle lemonade paletas, a Midwestern take on Mexican popsicles.

“You’re not overt about Christianity because this is just what you do,” said McClure, who takes vacation to volunteer all 12 days at the Hamline dining hall, as she’s done for 20 years.

But sometimes the faith mission is worn on one’s sleeves — or rather aprons and vests. On Saturday, members of several Methodist congregations that support LGBTQ inclusion, part of a larger rift within the denomination, wore purple aprons volunteering at the Hamline dining hall.

Just behind it at Crossroads Chapel, volunteers wore bright red vests emblazoned “prayer team.” For seven decades, a network of evangelical churches has operated the combined Christian bookstore, chapel and tent offering free Bibles, including Spanish-language and a comic book-style geared toward children.

Aliza Lamprecht, 7, grabbed a copy of the latter after running up to the tent en route to volunteering at the cattle barn.

“It’s the largest mission field in Minnesota,” said Crossroads board member Terry Schuveiller, adding the prayer teams gave away 5,000 Bibles at last year’s fair.

Such evangelization is what drove fellow board member and musician Doug Peterson to set up the chapel’s outdoor stage with live entertainment.

“We have to be relevant to the culture, but true to the word of God,” said Peterson. “I’m a farmer. I’m just planting different kinds of seeds at the fair.”


Despite being tucked away inside the education building instead of by the swing rides, the Building Blocks of Islam booth also had a steady flow of visitors getting free Qurans from volunteers in hijabs.

“There’s no other place with so many Minnesotans together,” said Mashood Yunus, who helped found the group to combat misinformation about Islam. “This is election year now, so we really want to make sure we don’t let misinformation spread.”

Volunteers are trained to maintain civil engagement even in the rare occasions over the last ten years when they’ve encountered hostility, and the fair has designated a large upstairs room where volunteers can perform daily prayers, Yunus added.

Catholic Mass is also celebrated both Sundays of the fair with hundreds in attendance, said the Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick. The retired priest jokingly calls it “Mass on a stick” — a nod to iconic fair foods.

“It’s a tool of evangelization too,” Fitzpatrick said.

There used to be a bigger Catholic presence, including a Q & A with a priest. About a decade ago, the fair also had chaplains visiting 4-H children on the day their animals go to market, said former chaplain Sally Johnson, who now volunteers at the Methodist dining hall.

Today, all these organizations are struggling to find enough volunteers, a widespread problem for charities across the country after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Closing does come up,” said the Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard of Hamline Church. To serve approximately 30,000 meals at the fair, 600 volunteer shifts are needed. That’s a big ask even in a 500-member congregation where some have volunteered for 50 years, let alone for smaller and cash-strapped Salem Lutheran.

“It really is a walk of faith,” said Salem volunteer coordinator Rachel Carmichael as she coached half a dozen teens for whom the fair is also a job training program. “You just provide the opportunity and God can be there.”


Salem’s signature item is Swedish egg coffee. For the last three decades, volunteer Jim Zieba has started brewing it at 4:30 a.m. every day of the fair. Now in his mid-70s, on opening day he figured he had boiled 48 pots — each serving 40 cups — before people started lining up for a lunch of “Swedish meatball sundae.”

“I don’t want to leave these guys in a lurch. I’m the last of the everyday workers,” Zieba said.

Snapping a picture of the egg coffee recipe — yes, an egg is mixed in, shell and all — Bonnie Birnstengel said she gets a cup first thing on her annual fair visit.

“You bet I always do, even when it’s hot out,” she said, though it’s not quite as good as the egg coffee her mother-in-law brewed.

The Methodist dining hall is the first annual stop for Lane Christianson, who 15 minutes after the fair gates opened was eating the “holey hamloaf breakfast sandwich.”

“It’s a little slice of America here,” he said.


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Sunday brunch frittata featuring garden-fresh vegetables: Try it this weekend for family and friends

For many American families, the arrival of Sunday is the time to slow down a bit, attend church services, catch a sporting event, work around the house or visit with family and friends. 

Another quintessential part of the day for millions of people is enjoying Sunday brunch

If you’re looking to create a budget-friendly Sunday brunch dish with a bit of flair for your family and friends, a chef based in Philadelphia shared his choice pick that you can make at home. 


Use this shopping list and step-by-step guidance to whip up a tasty homemade Sunday brunch dish without much fuss or muss.

Let’s dig right in!

‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink’ Frittata by Thomas Harkins of Bank & Bourbon, Loews Philadelphia Hotel

If you have leftovers you’re looking to repurpose, this Sunday egg-based dish could be a winner. 

Thomas Harkins, executive chef, Bank & Bourbon — located in the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia — recommended making his “Everything but the Kitchen Sink Frittata.” 

eggs cracked into bowl

You’ll need 12 whole large eggs for this Sunday brunch recipe from Thomas Harkins. To start, whip the eggs in a bowl and set them aside.  (iStock)

He told Fox News Digital that he loves making this on Sundays using leftovers from the night before — and anything from his garden that he has on hand at the time.


12 whole large eggs

2 tablespoons butter

Corn shucked

Tomatoes, medium-diced


Green beans chopped

Green bell peppers medium-diced

¼ cup salsa, store-bought

Leftover protein, usually steak or chicken or salmon, medium-diced

¼ cup cheese (the chef usually has goat cheese or cheddar cheese on hand)

Different kinds of peppers

This Sunday brunch recipe calls for green bell peppers — as well as other healthy vegetables and ingredients.  (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


In a 10-inch nonstick pan on medium flame, add butter until it melts and coat the pan.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Whip eggs in bowl and set aside.

Add all of the vegetables and the pick of proteins that you have on hand and want to use.

Cook until hot on the stovetop all the way through. 

Add beaten eggs. 

Stir in with mixture to incorporate. 

chef Thomas Harkins

Thomas Harkins is executive chef of Bank & Bourbon at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. The historic hotel is across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and located in the heart of Center City, within walking distance of the Reading Terminal Market, Independence Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Barnes Foundation, among other popular attractions.  (Loews Philadelphia Hotel)

Place in oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until eggs set. 

Add cheese on top and melt. 


Take out and gently place a 12-inch plate on top and invert it to get the frittata on the plate. 


Top with your favorite salsa — and cut into 8 pie-shape pieces. 


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Underage drinking dangers: These are the states with the highest rates of teen alcohol use, study finds

A new study done by addiction recovery resource Addiction Treatment Magazine has revealed the states that have the highest and lowest prevalence of underage drinking.

Researchers looked at the number of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 who had consumed an alcoholic drink within the last month and had participated in binge-drinking, which is classified as consuming four or more drinks in one sitting, according to a press release on the publication’s website.

The data was drawn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) based on the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.


The study determined that the state of Vermont has the highest prevalence of drinkers between the ages of 12 and 20 in the U.S., according to the release.

Nearly 25% of minors in the state had consumed alcohol, and more than 14% had participated in binge-drinking. 

Teens drinking

A new study has revealed the states in the nation that have the highest and lowest prevalence of underage drinking. (iStock)

Other states with high rates include Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  

In Rhode Island, nearly 22% of young people between the ages 12 and 20 consume alcohol monthly, and 12% of minors consume four or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting, the study found.

In New Hampshire, 20.6% of people between the ages 12 and 20 had consumed alcohol in the last month. 

The share was 20.4% for Massachusetts. 


Rounding out the top 10 are the states of Oregon, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine and North Dakota.

At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi has the lowest prevalence of underage drinking, with only 9.7% of underage people consuming alcohol. 

It also has the lowest binge-drinking rate, at only 5.4%, according to the study. 

College drinking

One possible reason that Vermont has topped the list is that it is a rural state with many colleges and universities — the highest number per capita of any state — said a clinical director of addiction services.  (iStock)

Utah is the second-lowest, at 11% for alcohol consumption and 6.8% for binge-drinking among the underage population. 

Coming in at third lowest is North Carolina, where 11.3% of underage people consumed alcohol in the last month.

Alabama is also on the lower end at 12%, followed by Arkansas at 12.3%.


Rounding out the lower 10 are Indiana, Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas. 

“It’s no secret that underage drinking is a major concern in the United States, as it can pose several significant risks to the well-being of young people, including health risks, impaired judgment and the risk of dependency and addiction,” said a spokesperson for Addiction Treatment Magazine in the release.

Teens drinking

Overall, the findings indicate that the use of alcohol in young people continues to be a concern, said Tuell of the Lindner Center of HOPE in Ohio. (iStock)

“These findings provide an intriguing insight into where underage drinking is the most prominent throughout the country, with Vermont coming out on top. While progress has been made in reducing underage drinking rates, it is still a matter of concern, and ongoing efforts are necessary to address this issue and protect the health and safety of young people,” the spokesperson continued.

Dr. Chris Tuell, clinical director of addiction services for the Lindner Center of HOPE in Ohio, was not involved in the study, but said he wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“A parent’s position on underage drinking is paramount and is one of the strongest protective factors against underage drinking.”

“The Northeast has had a history of higher rates of underage drinking for the past 20 years,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview. “There continues to be no definitive reason why these rates are the way they are.”

One possible reason for Vermont’s topping the list, he said, is that it is a rural state with many colleges and universities — the highest number per capita of any state.

young people drinking beer outside

“The research is crystal-clear that early alcohol use before the age of 15 raises the risk of lifelong problems of addiction and alcoholism,” warned Dr. Chris Tuell, clinical director of addiction services for the Lindner Center of HOPE in Ohio.  (iStock)

Overall, the findings indicate that the use of alcohol in young people continues to be a concern, Tuell said.

“The research is crystal-clear that early alcohol use before the age of 15 raises the risk of lifelong problems of addiction and alcoholism,” he warned. 

“Early alcohol use — drinking at age 14 or earlier — [means a] 7 times greater risk for developing an alcohol problem than someone who begins drinking at age 21.” 


Other possible reasons for the high rates in some states may be related to how the packaging of alcohol is geared toward youth, such as flavored drinks, and the association of alcohol use with sporting events, the expert noted.


“This promotes alcohol use in young people as a necessary part of having fun,” Tuell said.

“A parent’s position on underage drinking is paramount and is one of the strongest protective factors against underage drinking,” he also said.

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Coffee quiz! How much do you know about the can’t-live-without-it drink?

National Coffee Day is September 29 — and millions of people have recognized the special occasion. 

But no matter what day it is or what season of the year, how well do you know the popular drink that many people consume all year long? 

Test your knowledge in this fun and engaging lifestyle quiz all about coffee!

Mobile app users: Click here to play the quiz!

Have you taken our fall quiz yet? Click here to play it!

To take even more quizzes from Fox News Digital, click on this link.

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