FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (FOX 9) - After a two-year wait, the gates are open at the Minnesota State Fair.
The Great Minnesota Get-Back-Together is back after it was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are not required inside most buildings on the fairgrounds, although they are strongly recommended, and attendees do not need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to get in.
While in many ways it will be the same State Fair Minnesotans know and love, fairgoers will notice some changes.
Over 150 vendors are not returning to the State Fair this year, up from about 75 vendors in a typical year. Some vendors have pulled out of the fair over COVID-19 concerns while others were facing staffing and supply shortages.
For returning vendors, there may be some changes to their setups. For example, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources closed their building, trail center and fire watch tower, but the outdoor park, stages and fish pond remain open.
There will also be fewer 4-H'ers staying at the fair this year. Organizers reduced the number of 4-H youth staying overnight on the fairgrounds from 800 down to less than 200 or about 25%.
One Grandstand act, Low Cut Connie, said they won’t be performing as part of The Current’s Music On-A-Stick show because of the fair’s COVID-19 policies. The other bands are still in, so the show remains on as scheduled.
This will also be the first year with metal detectors at the entrances. They were supposed to be added last year, but the fair was canceled. The additional screening could slow things down, so be sure to give yourself a little extra time.
One thing that hasn’t changed: the food. There are 25 new foods at the State Fair this year, including everything from giant donut creations to deep-fried vegan chorizo on a stick.
Another State Fair tradition lives on as well. Wednesday night, 19-year-old Anna Euerle of Litchfield was crowned the 68th Princess Kay of the Milky Way. She will have her likeness carved in butter on the first day of the fair.
The Minnesota State Fair runs Thursday, Aug. 26 through Labor Day, Sept. 6.
Here’s everything else you need to know if you’re planning to attend this year’s Great Minnesota Get-Together.
Consider attending the fair on a weekday
There will be no daily attendance limit at the fair, but organizers are encouraging people to consider attending on a weekday instead of a weekend, when the fair is traditionally less busy.
The Minnesota State Fair is launching a new website feature, dubbed the "Gopher Gauge" which will show how busy the fair is at a given time to help fairgoers choose when to visit. When the fairgrounds are open and less busy, the gauge will say "One Fairchild," and when it is moderately busy, it will show two. The gauge will be updated regularly throughout the fair day.
Do I need a mask?
There are a few places on the fairgrounds where masks will be required, including the Care & Assistance and First Aid buildings, the North End Event Center to donate blood or get a vaccine, and to ride a trolley (if you are not vaccinated). Some independent vendor booths may also require fairgoers to wear masks while visiting their booths.
Masks will also be required if you take a bus to the fairgrounds. If you take the Park & Ride buses, Metro Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority or SouthWest Transit Express Buses, shuttles or other forms of mass transits, you will be required to wear a mask while waiting for and on the bus.
Get tested after attending the fair
Organizers are recommending attendees get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after attending the Minnesota State Fair. That recommendation is in line with the Minnesota Department of Health’s testing guidance for large events.
Officials say anyone at higher risk of a serious COVID-19 infection should consider skipping the fair this year.
Fewer transportation options available
Metro Transit will only offer express buses from three park-and-rides this year, compared to the 10 it operated in 2019—the last time the State Fair was held. Officials said they did not have enough operators to service as many State Fair expresses bus stops without putting the regular routes at risk.
The express buses will service Bloomington, Cottage Grove and Minnetonka.
Regular Metro Transit routes that also service the fairgrounds will continue to run as scheduled. Additionally, the State Fair also has 30 park-and-ride lots where you can catch a free ride to the fair.
Vaccine shots available at the fair
Proof of vaccination will not be required to attend this year’s Great Minnesota Get-Together, but fair organizers are encouraging all fairgoers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
For those who are not vaccinated yet, the Minnesota Department of Health, Ramsey County and Homeland Health will be offering free vaccines at the North End Event Center during the fair—no ID or insurance required.
The first 3,600 people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the State Fair will get a $100 Visa gift card immediately after getting their shot.