You can’t escape the allure of Lake Chipotle, even in St. Paul. St. Paul resident Jill Moe won a 2023 Minnesota State Fair Blue Ribbon in crop art for her depiction of Lake Chipotle.
Utilizing a mixture of seeds, Moe’s rendition is reminiscent of a holiday greeting card. “Greetings from Lake Chipotle,” it spells out, in seed. A snow-covered Chipotle restaurant is reflected into a pool of water that has a rubber duckie swimming in it.
Moe found out about Lake Chipotle at the Depth of Wikipedia show hosted by Annie Rauwerda at Varsity Theater in February.
“She showed Lake Chipotle as an example of our love for lakes, and everybody just started screaming,” Moe recounted.
I asked the award-winning crop artist how she knew about the floating rubber duckies that people would purport to place in the “lake.”
“I added it at the very end. Is there a rubber duck?” she asked in between hearty laughter.
I confirmed with her the countless examples of people bringing items to float in the oft-flooded parking lot of the East Isles Chipotle.
“Oh, I'm so glad because that's what I always want to do with potholes. I always want to go around and put ducks in them when they fill up,” Moe said.
Lake Chipotle is a reference to the recurring flooded parking lot at the Hennepin Avenue Chipotle in East Isles. The flooding happened so often, and for so many years, that it became the area’s own inside joke. A tongue-in-cheek Lake Chipotle tourism site even popped up.
This winter, the parking lot flooding got especially bad. When Southwest Voices was out covering the flooding, a paddleboarder was able to take a lap around the deep waters. The parking lot shenanigans (finally?) got the attention of Chipotle’s corporate offices and crews were sent out to install a water mitigation system to stop the continual water pooling.
“I know about the stand-up paddleboard experience. And I couldn't pull that off,” Moe said (We won’t hold that against the multi-time Blue Ribbon winner).
Stina Neel, the paddleboarder, said it was a big deal for Lake Chipotle to be represented as seed art at the State Fair.
“[Lake Chipotle] was a bright spot for me and it brought a lot of people together,” Neel said.
Now that Lake Chipotle is gone, the first place-winning crop art piece feels like a fitting tribute to the urban legend.
“It does feel like an in-memoriam piece,” Neel said. “I feel kind of honored that the artist chose Lake Chipotle. It’s good, it’s local, it’s meme-y, it’s amazing.”
Moe confirmed she knew Lake Chipotle was going away and took the opportunity to memorialize it with crop art. But she doesn’t think the subject matter had much to do with her Blue Ribbon.
“A lot of the judges aren’t from here,” Moe said. “They’re not going to know what Lake Chipotle is.”
Moe got involved in crop art after she moved to Minnesota from Seattle in 2008. After attending the State Fair for a few years, she took her involvement to the next level.
“I decided to start entering contests because that seemed like a way to sort of fast track my Minnesota acclamation,” Moe said.
In 2021, Moe was featured in Star Tribune’s light-hearted guide to seed art, produced when the State Fair was closed during the peak pandemic.
“Let’s remember, we’re gluing seeds onto a board,” Moe said as she traced glue around a goat image. “We’re just having fun.”
This is Moe’s third blue ribbon, which means in 2024 she can submit her work in the advanced crop artist category, no longer considered an amateur.
Inspired to make crop art of your own? Moe teaches crop art classes with Marta Shore at Wet Paint in St. Paul from time to time and she is also available for crop art parties (supplied included). Moe also suggests the how-to videos on the locally-run CropArt.com website and the Minnesota State Fair Crop Art Community on Facebook. You can inquire about crop art parties by sending Moe an email at email@example.com.
You can visit the Lake Chipotle crop art in the Agriculture Horticulture building at the Minnesota State Fair. The State Fair runs Aug. 24 through Sept. 4.