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Hamline, Salem dining halls make big changes for 2021 Minnesota State Fair

The Hamline and Salem dining halls cited health and safety concerns.

The only two church dining halls remaining at the Minnesota State Fair will not be dining halls at all during this year's get-together.

Both Hamline Dining Hall and Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall announced Monday they are closing off the traditional indoor seating areas for the 2021 fair. Both cited health and safety as reasons for the change.

Related: The 2021 Minnesota State Fair: Everything you need to know

Hamline is scaling things back dramatically.

The church announced Monday it will only be selling ice cream from an exterior pick-up window during the 2021 State Fair, touting its Sno-Cap Mini Waffle Sundae and nine ice cream flavors.  All volunteers will be vaccinated and wearing masks, the church added.

“While we had hoped to be fully open, given the current levels of COVID infection we believe this decision is in line with our faith tradition that calls us to love our neighbor,” said Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard, senior pastor at Hamline United Methodist Church, “We want to thank everyone for their support and understanding.”

Salem said Monday it still plans to offer its full dining hall breakfast and dinner menu (Swedish Egg Coffee included), but will operate in a to-go format with no indoor seating. And as a bonus, the dining spot will accept credit cards for the first time in its 73-year history.

"We are so excited to be back this year and can’t wait to see everyone again!" Salem wrote 

Related: About 150 vendors aren't returning to the Minnesota State Fair this year

Decades ago, church dining halls were incredibly popular, with dozens spread across the fairgrounds. Now, just Hamline and Salem remain in operation.

Hamline Dining Hall is the oldest church dining hall at the Minnesota State Fair. It dates back to 1897, when a church member who had a coal wagon hauled a group of women up to the fair to sell sandwiches they'd made in the church basement.

Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall has been up and running since 1949, and in normal years has waiters who provide table service.

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