ST. PAUL -- Despite the cancellation of the 2020 Minnesota State Fair due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced last week that planning is proceeding for this year’s fair -- albeit with different scenarios under consideration.
“From the day we canceled, our priority has been to ensure the future of the fair by holding our operation together,” State Fair general manager Jerry Hammer said in a release. “I cannot stress enough how critical our expert staff is to the success of the fair. They’re experienced pros, and there is no fair without them. Our staff is ready to go, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back together at the State Fair.”
Hammer said that virtually all State Fair revenue dried up in 2020, and the fair reported an operating loss of $16.2 million. The State Fair receives no state funding of any kind.
The fair’s normally aggressive program of maintenance and improvements to the historic State Fairgrounds also slowed dramatically, the release said.
Average annual investment in facilities during the previous six years was $12 million. In 2020, it was limited to $2.4 million in basic essential maintenance, most of which was completed before the virus struck.
However, there were many successful efforts to keep fair fans engaged in 2020:
Two State Fair food parades were held on the fairgrounds over five long weekends and each sold out, giving fair fans a chance to get their State Fair food fix.
Minnesota State Fair At-Home Edition was offered on the fair’s website and social media channels and included demonstrations, entertainment, creative contests, behind-the-scenes peeks, videos and more.
The Minnesota State Fair Online Marketplace was a searchable hub to help fair fans support more than 285 State Fair merchandise vendors by clicking through to vendor websites.
The Minnesota State Fair competition division offered four virtual showcases that included cookie decorating, crop art, K-12 artwork and photography and quilt on-a-stick.
The 2020 Fine Arts Exhibition of Minnesota show went on both in-person and virtually and featured works by 346 artists from across the state selected through an online juried competition.
The Minnesota State Fair Foundation, the fair’s nonprofit fundraising arm, offered its continued support to the Minnesota State Fair in 2020. During the five Food Parade weekends, the foundation welcomed more than 3,000 fair fans who signed up to be "Official Friends of the Fair." The Friends of the Fair contribute to improvements to State Fair buildings, the fairgrounds and educational programs.
The Minnesota State Fair is one of the largest and best-attended expositions in the world, attracting more than 2 million visitors annually, the release said.
The 2021 Minnesota State Fair will run Aug. 26 to Labor Day, Sept. 6. Visit mnstatefair.org for more information.