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NEWS: Minnesota State Fair, Day 1 Attendance

A selection of cakes await judging at the Minnesota State Fair, which runs through September 6, 2021 in St. Paul, MN. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair.

The Minnesota State Fair is back this year, but on Day 1, at least, the crowds were not. The State Fair kicked off with 61,983 people walking through its doors, less than half of the 133,326 who did so on Day 1 in 2019.

While 2019 was a record year for opening day attendance, it was plain that many Minnesotans were reluctant to dive into the Great Minnesota Get-Together and its historical crowding. Stormy weather, a reduced number of vendors, and ongoing COVID-19 concerns combined to keep attendance light, shrinking waiting times and leaving benches, for once, relatively plentiful.

Sausage Sister & Me’s Bahn Minn Bun and Banh Minn Bowl, two of the foods being used to entice visitors to return to the Minnesota State Fair. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair.

If and how to open the State Fair has been controversial, with a growing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. Vendor turnover has been unusually high, with a net drop of about 90 vendors compared to 2019. Open-carry advocates sued to try and force the State Fair to allow open-carrying of firearms during the festival; while defeated in court, the decision coming less than 24 hours before the Fair’s opening did not help matters.

Another decision to not require masking or proof of COVID-19 vaccination set off bitter arguments on social media. The band Low Cut Connie decided to pull out of its scheduled Grand Stand show on Saturday in protest, and organizations such as the Minnesota Council on Disability have declined to participate due to the perceived lack of COVID-19 precautions.

A trio of drinks from Summer Lakes Beverage, one of the 61 new vendors at the State Fair this year: the Wedge-Hammer, Lake Storm Lemonade and Bama! Lemon Sweet Tea. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair.
Twin Cities Arts Reader