Minnesota State Fair: Cheap and free things to do

Tomorrow, the gates of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds will open for 12 days of foods on a stick, baby animals, award-winning jams and flowers, friendly carnies running Mighty Midway rides, and free concerts on multiple stages. The fair is an event that is notorious for eating wallets, but with some frugality you can have fun for less, have things to take home, and even possibly win big prizes.

The following is a list of some of the cheap or free things to do, such as $1 food items, and what booths to hit up to enter contests with big wins (they're giving away cars this year, people!). Looking for free stuff? We've also got the best of the free items as well, such as sunglasses, backpacks, ear buds, and playing cards.

See also:
Top 10 concerts to see at the MN State Fair

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Three tips for internet cat video stardom

Tonight is the night, crazy cat folks. For the third year in a row, the cutest film festival ever created will dig its adorable little claws into the Twin Cities for the Internet Cat Video Festival. 

Taking place back where it started, the Walker Art Center, the Internet Cat Video Festival has become one of the most famous film fests in the country with thousands of people flocking to see the best that the internet has to offer. This year's event will be hosted by Tom Weber, co-host of MPR's The Daily Circuit, and features a special appearance by internet cat video icon Lil Bub. Attendees will also have the chance to vote for their favorite video of the night, which will be awarded the prestigious Golden Kitty Award.

While it's too late to enter your cat into this year's competition, there's about 364 days until next year's festival. To help you get started on your own viral video sensation, we're giving you three can't-lose tips for creating the ultimate cat video. Let the cuteness begin.

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Renaissance Festival 2014: How to enjoy ye olde Shakopee on a budget

Categories: Festivals
George Day
These fair maidens know how to get a good deal
Why does it seem like some of the most expensive happenings of summer come at the very end when we're broke? After weekends where concert tickets, drink purchases, and barbecue budgets ate away our bank account, now we must worry about making it through the Minnesota State Fair, back-to-school shopping, and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival without breaking the bank.

But fear not: There are plenty of ways to enjoy Ren Fest on the cheap, whether you are totally broke or are planning on making a big purchase (hello, authentic Vikings hat) and need to be frugal elsewhere.

This weekend kicks off the beloved festival, in which freaks and geeks convene in a field in Shakopee to watch old-school sports, play chess, drink beer, and more. There are many free and cheap things to do, the following is merely a suggestion of things to check out. (But who wouldn't want to drink some free wine after taking in some jousting?)

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Five rides to enjoy during Pedalopolis

Categories: Cycling, Festivals
Photo Courtesy Twin Cities Bike Fun 
This week, the Twin Cities will be exploding with over 20 informal bike rides aimed at providing fun ways to get out and enjoy the city without the pressure of competition. Hosted by Twin Cities Bike Fun, Pedalopolis originated as an international bike festival, called BikeSummer, that was a critical mass-inspired event. It grew in popularity over the years, and continues today in the form of Pedalpalooza in Portland and Velopalooza in Vancouver. Inspired by these types of bike-centered festivals, Nickey Robo, a cycling advocate and co-founder of Twin Cities Bike Fun, hatched a plan to create Minneapolis's own festival, featuring a week full of crowd-sourced bike rides that emphasize enjoyment and accessibility for all different kinds of cyclists.

"We wanted to create a space where people of all kinds of athletic levels could get together and have that experience together," Robo says. "The Twin Cities has amazing alley cats and racing, but not the same community around social rides. We wanted to encourage the idea that you don't have to be a hardcore racer to enjoy this festival. It's for everybody."

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Seven ways to improve your improv experience

Categories: Festivals
Jen Van Kaam
Pictured: Troy Zimmerman, Michael Ritchie, Eric Knobel
Huge Theater executive director Butch Roy still remembers the time he had to bring up the house lights and ask an audience member to stop shouting out during the middle of a performance.

"When you shut a heckler down it ruins the show for everybody," Roy says.

Improv comedy is tricky in the sense that the audience is expected to participate, but must also know when participation is inappropriate or unwanted. With the eighth annual Twin Cities Improv Festival starting today at HUGE Theater, we spoke with local improv performers to put together seven ways to get the best experience out of a show without ruining it for the audience, the performers, and yourself.

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OUT Twin Cities Film Fest: Lawrence Ferrara's Power Erotic

[Editor's note: Out Twin Cities Film Fest is hitting the Theatres at Mall of America next week with special screenings and events showcasing LGBTQ-themed cinema. Leading up to the festivities, we'll be highlighting a few of the participating filmmakers.]

Ever wonder why gay men are seemingly obsessed with the idea of masculinity? Look no further than Lawrence Ferrara's Power Erotic. The gritty documentary dives deep into the sex lives of gay men, addressing the idea of masculinity, dominance, submission, and the root of sexual desires. While some may find its brutal honesty to be a bit disturbing, Ferrara is hoping it will open a dialogue about gay sexuality.

The Cambridge-based filmmaker caught up with City Pages before the Out Twin Cities Film Festival to chat about his in your face, NSFW film.

See also:
OUT Twin Cities Film Fest: Stewart Wade: Bringing screwball comedy to gay cinema

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OUT Twin Cities Film Fest: Stewart Wade: Bringing screwball comedy to gay cinema

Michael Urie and Randy Harrison in Such Good People
[Editor's note: Out Twin Cities Film Fest is hitting the Theatres at Mall of America next week with special screenings and events showcasing LGBTQ-themed cinema. Leading up to the festivities, we'll be highlighting a few of the participating filmmakers.]

Screwball comedies are a dime a dozen. Oftentimes they are all hype, and fail to deliver anything original. So it's understandable if there was any skepticism when the Out Twin Cities Film Festival announced Denver-born Stewart Wade's upcoming film, Such Good People, would be screening at the event. What could Wade create that hasn't already been done? Fortunately, Wade delivers. Such Good People is a hilarious tale full of greed, sibling rivalry, twists, turns, orphans, and, obviously, porpoises. The flick stars Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) and Randy Harrison (Queer As Folk), as a house-sitting couple who find $1 million. Scott Wolf, Ana Ortiz, James Urbaniak, and Lance Bass also make appearances.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Wade caught up with City Pages to discuss not only his film, but also his film background, how he used Kickstarter to fund such a huge project, and what is was like to work on such a tight schedule.

See also:
OUT Twin Cities Film Fest: JC Calciano: The king of LGBT romantic comedies

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OUT Twin Cities Film Fest: JC Calciano: The king of LGBT romantic comedies

[Editor's note: Out Twin Cities Film Fest is hitting the Theatres at Mall of America next week with special screenings and events showcasing LGBTQ-themed cinema. Leading up to the festivities, we'll be highlighting a few of the participating filmmakers.]

JC Calciano's films are chock-full of your standard rom-com drama: Boy finds himself newly single and heartbroken, or in some sort of a mild mid-life crisis after seeking completely unqualified advice from friends. This leads to utter chaos and confusion, but our hero somehow manages to find love and acceptance, and ultimately comes out a winner.

Regardless of how predictable this may be, Calciano's films are completely necessary. Every year, Hollywood green-lights a handful of blockbuster love stories about heterosexual couples. Sometimes, there's a funny gay sidekick playing second fiddle to the leading lady, but that's about it for an LGBTQ presence. So where are our gay and lesbian rom-com stars? We need homo hunks and sexy lesbians to root for, too, and Calciano is just the man to fill the void in our lovelorn hearts.

With the OUT Twin Cities Film Festival right around the corner, we caught up with the 50-year-old filmmaker and teacher to talk about all the crazy things people do for love, the consistent stream of hot men involved in his films, and, of course, his latest rom-com, The 10 Year Plan, a film where two friends make a pact to end up together should they fail to find love before the end of a decade.

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Northern Spark launches Kickstarter campaign

Categories: Art, Festivals
Patrick Kelley
After last season's party in St. Paul, Northern Spark will be venturing back to Minneapolis this summer for an evening of special happenings throughout the city on June 14. Hotspots include downtown by the Metrodome, the Walker Art Center, the Greenway, and outside the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. During the overnight event there will be light installations, hands-on activities, live music, and other fun, community-building moments.

The organization recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for basic needs at the event, including electricity, police permits, and other nitty-gritty necessities.

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Twin Cities Book Festival takes over the Fairgrounds this weekend

Categories: Books, Festivals
Photo by Jennifer Simonson Photography
This weekend, the 13th annual Twin Cities Book Festival hits the State Fairgrounds. It's the largest literary event in the upper Midwest, and is your chance to mingle with authors and book lovers alike in a day-long extravaganza of readings, signings, socializing, and more. The family-friendly affair, presented by Rain Taxi, brings is expected to bring in about 7,000 people. 

The festival started in 2000. "We realized that all these other cities had book festivals, which was ironic because this was a book town," says Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi. Believing that the Twin Cities deserved its own festival, volunteers from local book publishers worked with Rain Taxi to get the first event started. It's been growing ever since.

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