FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - A memorial service was held Friday morning at the fairgrounds for the Minnesota State Fair’s longtime police chief Art Blakey, who passed away last weekend at the age of 83.
Blakey was the fair’s police chief for 37 years, becoming something of an icon at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. He retired last year.
Friday, guests overflowed at the Schell's Stage with a huge display of photos, awards and memorabilia from his career displayed at the Heritage Center.
His wife Carolyn and his daughter Brooke said the family was overwhelmed by the love and support.
Surrounded by more than a thousand family and friends, the celebration of Blakey's life was exactly what he wanted: a casual and hot day at the fair.
"He's at home," said Brooke. "This is where he spent the majority of his time, so it was more than fitting to be here on his last day."
Blakey was described as having the stature of a cop, but the heart of a pastor. He became well-known in his career as the fair's chief.
He famously forgave a robber who shot him and visited the culprit to ask if he needed any help.
"This single act of forgiveness demonstrates why forgiveness is so important," Brooke added. "The man who tried to kill Art went on to become a preacher of Jesus Christ."
More interested in doing the right thing than making arrests, he gave countless officers their start in law enforcement, including Paul Paulos, who first worked under Blakey when he was 16 years old. Now, Paulos has his mentor's title as Chief.
"He about courtesy, he's about kindness, he's about integrity," Paulos said.
Outside the fair gates, Blakey was a trailblazer, becoming Ramsey County's first African American deputy in 1970.
Blakey was a veteran, worked security for the NFL and proudly took St. Paul's title of King Borious for the Winter Carnival in 2010.
He was a humble and proud father of three, grandfather to five and an inspiration to countless others.
"If you wanna honor Art, you need to live like Art," said State Fair Manager Jerry Hammer. "And, lastly, you need to smile like Art."
Blakey joined the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy in 1965 and became fulltime in 1970. In 1980, he became the State Fair’s chief of police in 1980 doing both jobs until 2003, when he stepped down from Ramsey County to focus on the fair.
The State Fair Police Department building has Art’s name on it and right now, at the Heritage center, there are pictures of him from his time at the fair.