Live at the North Dakota State Fair

The North Dakota State Fair is returning to Minot this July for its 96th year. Listening to kids scream for dear life as they’re whisked around by the Tornado ride, becoming torpid with the onion rings and pie served by the First Lutheran Church, and applying your own considerable expertise in goats to prognosticate which goats are going to win the goat show — these are all crucial parts of celebrating any North Dakotan summer, but it’s the fair’s concerts that make the biggest memories. Here are the big, hot acts coming to this year’s North Dakota State Fair.

Scandinavian Hjemkomst and Midwest Viking Festival

No matter your heritage, you can take satisfaction that if you traced your lineage back far enough you would have to be related to some fearsome warrior. If you are Italian, a legionnaire decorates a branch of your family tree; If you are Irish, then you share blood with a fearsome gallowglass who poleaxed his fair share of whomever looked at him funny. If you’re Norwegian, then you’re especially lucky, because nothing captures the imagination quite like a blonde bearded behemoth heaving around a three foot long Ulfberht sword like it was made out of mattress ticking does.

Down Dog Studio

My parents’ laid back approach to dog ownership meant that none of the dogs I grew up with had received any training. This let them be themselves, for better or for worse. Our black and tan hound dog Molly, who otherwise had the demeanor of a Xanaxed school librarian, cherished a passionate hatred for garter snakes which she expressed by decapitating them in droves. Max, a heap of a German Shepherd who thought nothing of once attacking a bear, was so terrified of little girls that he ceased to be able to function whenever he met one. Had our home ever been invaded by little girls they’d have been able to make off with whatever they liked. Their current dog, Lily, a lesser heap of a German Shepherd, is sweet as sugar to people, but is also of sound belief that any dog who isn’t her deserves only to be bitten as hard as she can bite.

Mylo Hatzenbuhler

Suppose that a big, sweet, and not altogether glowingly bright North Dakotan farmboy somehow got it into his head that he is destined to become the next Elvis Presley, but, falling short of convincing the world that mud spattered overalls are the next sequined jumpsuit, he became North Dakota’s answer to Weird Al Yankovic instead — a German Allan Sherman, if you will. This is Mylo Hatzenbuhler, “The Strasburg Superstar,” “a man of the soil transformed into a rock music icon” whose musical parodies about cows, chickens, and the eternal struggle twixt buffet and waistband have delighted hayseeds and city slickers alike throughout the country.

Dairyland Donkey Ball

The donkey is both the worst and the best animal to combine with sport. When it comes to motivation, cooperativeness, and athleticism, the donkey is distinctly lacking. A. A. Milne didn’t get the inspiration to write a character like Eeyore because he’d sensed a certain burning passion within the donkeys he knew. However, the beast’s characteristic obstinance creates quite a spectacle when he’s asked to compete. The dour expression the donkey always wears, like someone just did something unspeakable to his Cheerios, contrasts beautifully with that of his rider who is trying eagerly to persuade him to go along with a game of baseball or basketball. The donkey is open to such a suggestion, but ultimately has the final say over the matter.