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DNR says fish pond and fire tower back at state fair

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Woodbury, 55125

Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

One of the Minnesota State Fair's more popular attractions will be back this year along with a popular attraction that hasn't been around since 1978.

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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say that the live fish exhibit and the fire tower will be back at the fair this year.

DNR officials say this year's live fish exhibit is expected to display about 45 species of fish.

One of the most popular fish with fairgoers has been the paddlefish.

Characterized by their long, paddle-like bill, the paddlefish is found in the lower Mississippi River below Minneapolis. Paddlefish grow to be quite large, with fish up to 200 pounds being recorded, according to DNR wildlife officials.

These fish are like sharks in that the skeleton (including the snout) is made entirely of cartilage - it has no bony skeleton.

The largest fish in the exhibit is the lake sturgeon, which exceeds 50 inches.

A state fair veteran, this specimen was the gift of an angler who harvested it legally from the St. Croix River several years ago.

Lake sturgeon in Minnesota are found in the Mississippi, St. Croix and Rainy river systems. The largest sturgeon reported from Minnesota was a 215-pound fish found dead along the shore of Lake of the Woods in the early part of the 20th century.

Another attraction this year will be the DNR fire tower.

"The fire tower located on the DNR Building grounds at the State Fair was closed in 1978 due to safety concerns," said Olin Phillips, DNR Fire Management Section manager. "For more than a year, the DNR has been working to restore the tower so it meets state and OSHA safety standards and can once again be available for public access."

Although the tower will open to the public this 2006 fair season, Phillips reminds everyone that it is the "shakedown" year where logistics are put to the test and evaluated." A "grand opening" celebration for the tower will occur at the 2007 State Fair.

Approximately 300 people will have the opportunity to climb the tower each day of the State Fair. Free tickets will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, telling people what time of the day they can climb it. The tower will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

"By having a ticket system like this in place, we hope to eliminate the need for people to wait in a long line," said Phillips. "For safety reasons we have to be somewhat restrictive and can allow no more than 25 on the tower at one time."

Because of safety concerns the Phillips says that children under 6 are not allowed on the tower and that children between 6 and 12 must be accompanied by an adult

He added that the tower will be closed during thunder and lightning storms and that - no food or beverages will be allowed.

For people unable to access the fire tower, a live video view of the tower will be available in the DNR Building display area.

The 65-foot State Fair fire tower was constructed in 1966 and it was specifically built for the fair to provide a wildfire prevention message to visitors.

Although this tower was never used for actual fire detection, there were at one time more than 100 active fire towers in Minnesota that were the primary tool used for fire detection.

Today, aircraft detection and citizen reports have replaced the need for all but a few of the fire towers that were once used.

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