FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (FOX 9) - With seven days left until the Minnesota State Fair, the countdown is on, but vendors say they’re ready to welcome back pre-pandemic crowds.
The fair is anticipating similar numbers to 2019, when 2.1 million people came over the 12 days.
"I grew up out here. I just love the fair. It doesn't matter what time of year, you drive through the fairgrounds and there's a magic to this place," said Brad Ribar, owner of Corn Roast. "There's some real special about the Minnesota State Fair. It's my home away from home."
With just a week to go until the Great Minnesota Get Together, signs are going up, supplies are being brought in, and crews are preparing the grounds and rides. Some vendors still holding job interviews this week.
While customers will likely feel the effects of inflation at the fair, they won't at Ribar's longtime booth.
"I hope by keeping my prices the same for the fifth year in a row now, it will sell more to offset our added costs," he said.
Tickets are a dollar more this year, but guests can them ahead of time to save money. They can also buy the Blue Ribbon Bargain Books at the ticket office and some Cub stores. This year, the fair opens an hour later and closes an hour earlier. The hours will be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every except Labor Day when the hours will be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Some vendors told FOX 9 they are still having trouble finding staff.
For a decade, doctors from the Minnesota Academy of Audiology performed hearing tests and worked to educate people about hearing loss at their booth.
"(We) let them see their eardrums and see what that looks like and then also screen their hearing and provides resources for those who have hearing loss to investigate it further," said Dr. Jason Leyendecker, president of the Minnesota Academy of Audiology.
But this year, not enough volunteers signed up, and they couldn't find the one paid employee they needed to run the booth. So the organization was forced to pull the plug and cancel the booth this year.
"It was a real struggle, and it's unfortunate. But hopefully, we can revamp our processes and figure out a new plan for us for next year," Leyendecker said.
Ribar said his labor costs are way up, but luckily, he has all the staff members he needs and even has a waiting list now. His daughter found a unique way to get the employees the booth needs to husk corn and serve it: they’re turning the event into a fundraiser for dance teams.
"The dancer and one of the parents will come and they work for a day, and they might come twice. Some teams come once. Then, we pay the dance team for the hours they work, so it's a fundraiser for the dance team. I think we have five or six different dance teams signed up (and) 256 dancers will be here," Ribar said.
His booth also has a 63 return rate from last year's employees, proving that they, too, feel the same magic he does.