FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Minnesota State Fair saw a large drop in attendance for the first day of the 12-day event amid heavy rains and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to fair officials, 61,983 people hit the fairgrounds Thursday. The total is less than half the attendance seen on opening day the last time the fair was held in 2019. That year broke the attendance record with 133,326 fairgoers. The fair was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.
61,983 is also the lowest single-day attendance total for any day of the fair in the last 20 years. The next lowest days were the 2006 and 2007 openers (75,910 in 2006 and 79,192 in 2007). Since the 2001 festival, the fair has not seen a daily attendance below 70,000 before 2021. FOX 9 was unable to obtain records for prior to 2001 so it's unclear where the low opener fits in historically.
On Thursday, rain moved through the fairgrounds, leading to the shutdown of some rides, the cancellation of the parade, and a delay to the Miranda Lambert concert at the Grandstand.
For vendors who braved the unpleasant weather on Thursday, they noticed the slowdown in foot traffic.
For the last 40 years, Mike Hohenwald and his family have seen a lot while feeding fairgoers with their burgers and sub sandwiches.
The 2021 season is not off with a bang.
"This year is a little bit different. It seems to be a little bit slower, but we will take it after being off last year," said Hohenwald.
Over the first two days of the fair, he's seen heavy rain and slower sales.
"You take the good with the bad. You just hope that the good days fall on the weekends... We are hoping for a couple of redemption days tomorrow and Sunday," said Hohenwald.
Responding to the slow opening day, the Minnesota State Fair released the following statement:
"We are grateful for those who were able to come out and support our exhibitors, performers, vendors, volunteers, and hard-working staff who make this event an iconic part of Minnesota. While we understand these are challenging times, we are thrilled to welcome back visitors to the Minnesota State Fair."
To determine how busy the fairgrounds are the Minnesota State Fair has a Gopher Gauge to regularly update the flow.