Cattle Barn awaiting repairs 100 days before State Fair starts

One hundred days away from the start of the Minnesota State Fair and one of the big questions is whether the Cattle Barn will be rebuilt in time.

Heavy snow on March 14 did what 100 years of combined winters could not. State Fair Executive Director Jerry Hammer says the old barn didn’t stand a chance.

“I did a little amateur calculating and it would have been about 40 tons per square inch when it hit,” said Hammer. “And that took down, you can see the metal structure here, and it just basically punched right through the roof and pulled the brick walls that were attached, pulled it all in on itself.”  

History collapsed with it. When the Cattle Barn opened in 1920, it housed not just livestock, but cars, too. Dealers held their auto show there in the ‘20s. During World War II, the war department took over and made aircraft propellers. Maintaining that historic feel is why the Fair is using the original plans to restore the barn.

Part of the challenge of rebuilding is that construction materials are completely different now. For example, I-beams don’t come with rivets in them anymore. Contractors also have to fabricate the bricks along with the windows and other structural components.

“Plan A is to have the roof back up and the brick work complete by Fair time and if for some reason if it doesn’t work out that way, we’re also working on plans B and C at this point,” said Hammer.

One way or another, cattle will return to the barn. The building is simply too important not just to the Fair, but generations of families.

“You look at all the time and you know, all the memories that are in the building, it’s really an important part of the Fair,” said Hammer.

Since nearly all of the building materials have to be fabricated, the reconstruction effort is in a bit of a holding pattern. Once the items arrive, all the work begins to get the barn ready in time for the fair to start.