State law enforcement officials detail security plans for Minnesota State Fair

A threat assessment conducted on the Minnesota State Fair came back "extremely low," the state's top law enforcement official said, just ahead of the fair's opening.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, Gov. Tim Walz and officials from the fair briefed reporters on their security plans at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, two days before the fairgrounds open to the public.

"Our job is to think about the worst-case scenarios and then preplan and preposition assets, so those worst-case scenarios never happen," Harrington said.

State Fair officials scrambled but ultimately signed up 200 police officers from nearly 60 agencies around the state to provide security at the fairgrounds during the 12-day event.

fair last day

Last day of the Minnesota State Fair in 2021.

Law enforcement officials are emphasizing security around the perimeter of the fairgrounds. Many of the 40 Ramsey County sheriff's deputies who will work the fair will patrol the perimeter, preventing anyone from getting in unless they pass through metal detectors at one of the gates.

"We’ll have some intel people out here providing us with intelligence analysis of what’s going on," said State Fair Police Chief Ron Knafla. "We’re also going to have more officers down in the problem spots that we typically see the issues."

Last year, the State Fair had a chaotic final night. Several fights broke out on the Midway, while a crowd of about 50 people tried to breach the main gate. There have been late-night issues in parking lots, too.

For the second straight year, fairgoers will pass through metal detectors at the main gates. Knafla said the equipment has become standard at major events around the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 fair, while the 2021 edition had smaller-than-usual attendance as the pandemic continued. This year's fair should "feel normal" with attendance closer to previous record highs, Walz said.

No THC edibles for sale

Minnesota lawmakers legalized low-dose THC edibles and beverages this summer, but vendors won't be allowed to sell them at the fair, said Jerry Hammer, the fair's longtime general manager.

"That’s not really enough time to develop any meaningful policies about controlled substance sales," Hammer told reporters. "We’ll sure be looking at it. But for this year, no."

Asked if the fair will be doing inspections to ensure compliance, Hammer said regulars check every vendor that sells food and beverages at the fair.