Jun. 11—Grab your fanny pack, your comfy walking shoes and be prepared to ditch the silverware for foods served on a stick for 12 days this summer.
The 2021 Minnesota State Fair is on. The Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which governs the Fair, voted unanimously Friday morning to set the dates for the Fair — Aug. 26 through Sept. 6 — making it official.
Attendance restrictions (timed entries, ticket lottery) are not planned; masks will not be required, but are strongly encouraged for people not fully vaccinated.
Gate ticket prices will increase by $1. Pre-fair discount admission tickets, on sale through Aug. 25 for all ages, are $13. Admission at the gate for adults 13-64 is $16; kids 5-12 and seniors 65+ will pay $14; children 4 and younger get in free. Gate ticket prices were last increased by $1 in 2019.
Gate admissions are the largest percentage of the State Fair revenue (which was down 97 percent with last year's canceled Fair), State Fair general manager Jerry Hammer told the Fair Board. Gate revenue makes up 40 to 42 percent of total revenue, he said.
Ticket price increases for some State Fair attractions were also approved. The Space Tower will rise from $4 to $5, one-way on the Sky Glider and Sky Ride will go from $4.50 to $5, The Great Big Wheel climbs from $5 to $6, the Carousel from $2.50 to $3 and the Giant Slide from $2.50 to $3.
Stacey Barona, who manages the Giant Slide for her father, said labor and insurance costs figured into the ticket increase. Barona also owns the Cheese-On-A-Stick food concession and says she never doubted that the Great Minnesota Get-Together would be a go for 2021. "We were planning for there to be a Fair all along," she said on Friday.
Like Barona, Friday's vote wasn't a surprise for most vendors, exhibitors and fairgoers. The 2020 State Fair cancellation was the first since 1945-46.
Jennifer Skuza, Minnesota 4-H director, said she and her staff were busy Friday getting the word out to the statewide youth organization, which brings more than 6,000 4-Hers to the Fair for contests, performances and activities every year. "We plan to be there for the entire State Fair," Skuza said. Though a few 4-H State Fair activities will be canceled this year, "it should be very similar to how it looked in the past."
Even Gov. Tim Walz expected the Fair to happen. During a briefing on coronavirus restrictions in late April, Walz raised hopes when he said the Minnesota State Fair "should be a pretty close to normal event" in 2021.
More evidence before it became official: Tickets are on sale for Grandstand shows that carried over from 2020, including the Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert; the State Fair website counts down the days, hours and minutes until Aug. 26; there were 52,000 tickets sold in a November "flash sale" offering $10 discount admission tickets for the 2021 Fair.
Additional Grandstand shows, free stage performances and new Fair foods and beverages for 2021 will be announced in the coming weeks, according to State Fair officials. Applications for exhibits are coming in, and the Fine Arts contest already has more than 500 entries.
Hammer said Fair staff has been planning for the "what ifs" for over a year. They're working on a "very compacted time frame," he added. Normally, business conducted at Friday's meeting would have taken place in January.
"It's the exact opposite of last year," Hammer said after the Board meeting. "A drip turned into a flood of reasons we couldn't have the Fair. This year it went the opposite way."
The Fair seemed to be testing the waters when it held a "Kickoff to Summer" over five days around Memorial Day Weekend. Attendance was limited to 10,000 during various time slots each day and tickets were sold through a lottery. The event, May 27-31, sold out. The Fairgrounds also hosted two sold-out drive-through Fair Food Parades in which people drove a route through the Falcon Heights grounds to purchase favorites. Though not organized by the Minnesota State Fair, the Fairgrounds were also used for drive-through holiday lights and St. Paul Winter Carnival events.
The Minnesota State Fair, which drew 2 million people in 2019, had annual revenue of $60 million that year. The State Fair independently finances its operation and receives no state appropriations.
Pre-Fair tickets are on sale on online at mnstatefair.org/tickets/admission-tickets/. Gate admission tickets purchased for the canceled 2020 fair, as well as tickets already purchased for 2021, are valid for this year's Fair.