Minnesota State Fair severe weather plan: Officials close rides, halt live music

Officials at the Minnesota State Fair say their goal when severe weather hits is to make sure people are protected from it. That means closing down rides and halting live music, which has already happened this Fair.

"The best advice is obviously get into a shelter, get out of the weather," said Ron Knafla, chief of police for the Minnesota State Fair.

Knafla said in the event of severe weather, the fair has identified these buildings as the emergency storm shelters where fairgoers should head:

  • Water Tower – 1530 Cosgrove St.
  • 4-H Building – 1412 Cosgrove St.
  • Food Building/The Garden – 1298 Underwood St.
  • Agriculture/Horticulture Building – 1263 Cooper St.
  • Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum – 1784 Judson Ave.
  • Grandstand – 1755 Dan Patch Ave.

Storms rolled in Saturday night during the fair, and vendors said it all happened very quickly.

"All of a sudden, the rain and the wind just came and people starting running of course as they always do into the Coliseum, but it was torrential," said Andy Smith, co-owner of Blue Ox Burger Bar.

Smith added that he quickly turned off the propane.

Other vendors watched their booths get drenched. At Dandy Souvenirs, some of the inventory had to be thrown out.

"In a few seconds, the water just came down and we're all soaked," said Fernando Roble from Dandy Souvenirs. "All the balloons flew away all over the place."

Knafla said the National Weather Service works on site with the fair to notify police when storms are approaching so employees can turn off rides. 

"Some of these rides take 30 to 60 minutes to unload people. So we need to know when that storm is getting close so we can start that process because we need to have those rides empty ideally before the storm hits the grounds," Knafla said.

Officers will help get people off the grounds or into shelters.

The Grandstand has a special evacuation plan for severe weather to help people get out of their seats during shows and into the Grandstand building

"They'll announce on the sound system give people instructions, what to do and where to go. They also have screens on each side of the stage that they'll post instructions on there, as well," Knafla said.

During severe weather, the fair also uses an alert system that will send notifications similar to Amber Alerts out to cell phones. Knafla said fairgoers should make sure their smart phones have emergency and public safety alerts turned on.