Fairgoers will see more officers this year at the Minnesota State Fair

The kickoff of the Minnesota State Fair is just a week away.

The fair opens to visitors next Thursday and preparations are in full swing. But it's not just State Fair vendors who are busy; State Fair police are also working hard to make sure the Great Minnesota Get-Together is safe and secure.

One of the most noticeable changes regarding safety and security will be the increased number of sworn officers patrolling both inside and outside the fair.

Even as visitors approach the Minnesota State Fair, they should notice some significant changes. "We have enhanced our perimeter security with fencing upgrades, we have increased patrols around the fence lines with additional officers that we added from the Minnesota DNR," said Chief Ron Knafla of the Minnesota State Fair Police.

The enhancements are just the beginning of a plan to ensure this year's State Fair is safe. Safety is a top priority after an incident at last year's State Fair when one person was shot during a brawl late on a Saturday night. The event led to chaos, with a crowd rushing out of the area and the fair closing early. The police will be on the lookout for large groups causing trouble, which many believe led to last year's issues.

"We have the BCA, FBI, Homeland Security, and a whole bunch more resources to combat the problem that arises out here. And that's all part of our comprehensive plan that we put together," explained Chief Knafla.

Last year, there were 140 sworn officers working for State Fair police. This year, there will be 170 and that number doesn't include law enforcement that will partner with fair police. In addition to more cops, there will be enhanced fence lines, additional perimeter security, more cameras, more metal detectors at the gates, bag checks if necessary, additional vehicle barricades, emergency communication systems, and on-site medical.

"I think that's the key message. I'm allowing my family to come to the fair, so people should know we're going to have a safe and secure environment for them to come and enjoy the fair," affirmed Chief Knafla.

The safety and security budget for this year's fair is more than $5 million, nearly double what was spent in 2019.