A Maine Miracle at the Minnesota State Fair

Acadia National Park, Maine. 2013
Acadia National Park, Maine. 2013

It took a move to Maine to finally find success at the Minnesota State Fair.

Let me explain.

Almost every year for the past 20 years I’ve submitted photos to the Minnesota State Fair Art Show. I’ve been rejected every year.

The State Fair Art Show has been an obsession of mine. Now maybe all the rejection has led to the obsession, but I don’t think so. I’ve been obsessed with landing a spot in the State Fair Art Show because I really like the State Fair Art Show. It’s quirky. It’s controversial. It’s beautiful and fun. The art show, which includes hundred of photos, paintings and sculptures, is predictable in places and unbelievable in others. It’s like finding a casual portrait of your parents taken before they had children – it’s charming, striking and very familiar yet something about it is odd.

Oh yeah, and the State Fair Art Show is also the biggest art show in the state. Close to 100,000 people tour the fine arts building over its 12-day run through Labor Day.

So maybe I just want to be a famous artist for 12 days.

Anyway, this year I entered a picture I made in Maine back in 2013. Jen and I had just moved to Bangor, Maine when a huge, early winter storm covered the state with snow. Rather than dig out, we drove to Acadia National Park. We found a winter wonderland.

The picture of a little coastline tree coated in ice jumped out of the camera. The tree had somehow grown out of  a rocky cliff next to a roaring ocean in one of the most rugged places in North America. It may even be a dead tree, yet it was coated with ice and snow that looked like frosting on a birthday cake.

Even a vacation photographer like me could see its artistic merit.

I had been volunteering in the photo department at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. They had a museum quality photo printer up in their attic offices and I asked if they could knock out a print. The guys graciously made me one for free. A big one.

I had the piece framed and it hung against our ketchup-colored dining room wall in Bangor for two years.

Then we returned to Minnesota.

This summer I hauled the tree photo out of a moving box and sent it off to the State Fair Art Show.

It looked good. It was big. It featured an expensive frame. It was printed by professionals. And it featured lots of snow. Minnesotans love snow.

Two weeks later, I learned the judges ACCEPTED my piece.

What do you do when you achieve your dreams?

Jen and I will be headed down from Duluth to the State Fair this weekend to see my photo hanging in the State Fair art gallery. There will be tears in my eyes.

It’s a Maine Miracle in Minnesota.


8 thoughts on “A Maine Miracle at the Minnesota State Fair

  1. WOW! Mark, that is awesome! I can’t wait to see it at the Fair…we’ll bring the kids so we can all brag about our famous brother/uncle. Count the McGees as PROUD! Congratulations!


  2. Mark, i love the Fair and have always gone to the Art Museum there, will look for your photo. I kind of wish i had not read this prior to going, so i would have been totally surprised and happy for you. Nice seeing and talking with you last night at St. Pete’s reunion.


  3. Thanks everyone! I hope you all can see it in person. Jen and I were at the fair this weekend, so now I can give you directions to it’s location.

    First of all, the photo is located in the Fine Art Building on the east end of the fairgrounds. It’s about five or six buildings north of the Snelling Avenue entrance, (near the 4H building) and it backs up to Snelling Avenue. The picture is hanging in an alcove on the north wall of the building near the restrooms ( I’m not sure if that was a commentary on my picture or not.)

    Have fun at the fair and remember you can vote for my picture in the “people’s choice” award competition – there’s a ballot box at the Fine Arts Building entrance.


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