The Minnesota State Fair's New Attraction: The Minneapolis Fed Beyond animals and fun foods, the Minnesota State Fair has a new attraction this year: the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. It's giving away (shredded) money and information about what the bank does.
NPR logo Hey, Look What's New At The State Fair: The Federal Reserve

Hey, Look What's New At The State Fair: The Federal Reserve

Karmi Mattson, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank's manager of public programs, says she and her colleagues are at the state fair to teach Minnesotans about what the Fed does. Mark Zdechlik/MPR News hide caption

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Mark Zdechlik/MPR News

Karmi Mattson, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank's manager of public programs, says she and her colleagues are at the state fair to teach Minnesotans about what the Fed does.

Mark Zdechlik/MPR News

Beyond the cattle barn, the "oink booth," the haunted house and meat-on-a stick, the Minnesota State Fair has a new attraction this year.

Tucked away in the education building at the fairgrounds near St. Paul is an exhibit featuring something anybody would love — free dough.

"How often do you get free money? Genuine U.S. currency," shouted Karmi Mattson, who manages public programs for the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, which set up its first-ever booth at the fair.

Sound too good to be true? Yup.

It's not spendable cash that the Fed's giving away. It's shredded, worn-out money the bank has taken out of circulation.

At the fair, which attracted more than 2 million visitors last year, the Minneapolis Fed is helping introduce the bank to thousands of Minnesotans at a time many people are concerned about the economy.

"We know that a lot of folks out there don't understand the mission of the Fed and all of our many activities. So, we're just hear to raise a little bit of awareness," Mattson said.

Fed officials get questions like, "Is now a good time to refinance my house?"

Visitors to the fair booth learn that the Federal Reserve System — of which the Minneapolis Fed is just a part — sets interest rates, manages the currency, including destroying worn bills, and oversees banks.

One visitor, Peter Andersen, 80, of St. Paul, learned the Federal Reserve System is divided into twice as many districts as the six he thought existed.

Unlike President Trump, who's likened Fed Chairman Jay Powell to an enemy, Andersen has a favorable opinion of the central bank and its mission.

"They monitor money, and they watch interest rates, and watch over the economy and make sure the inflation is not overdone," Andersen said. "I think they do a good job and they need to remain separate. The president should not, in my opinion, have any influence on the Fed."

In addition to getting a free bag of finely shredded currency, visitors to the Fed booth can spin a big trivia wheel for a chance to win a Fed fanny pack.

Maggie Catambay, 79, landed on a question about the average daily value of the electronic transfers the Fed handles for banks. The wheel offered three options: $1.3 billion, $10.3 billion and $103 billion.

Catambay went with the largest figure, the correct answer.

She, too, said she has no beef with the Fed. She thinks Trump's attacks on the central bank for not lowering interest rates more are for personal reasons.

"It's ridiculous. It's all about Trump and Trump's money and Trump's debts," Catambay said.

She said it's a good idea for the Minneapolis bank to raise its profile with a fair booth.

"You can never have enough information," she said.

Mattson said Catambay and Andersen are typical of visitors. She said she and her colleagues are not getting any pushback from fairgoers.

"We're seeing quite the opposite. A lot of support," Mattson said. "People thanking us for what we do, thanking us for being here."