Updated:
Original:

Minnesota State Fair during a pandemic: Does it feel any different?

Our food writer Haley Nelson hit the fair on the first day.
Screen Shot 2021-08-27 at 8.34.31 AM

As a Minnesota State Fair Super Fan, I was eager to get back after a year off. But like so many people, I wondered: What will it be like? Will it feel different? Will it be the same level of fun?

And after visiting on Day One, I can say this: It felt pretty normal.

Were there fewer people? Don’t get me wrong: The Fair was crowded. But it wasn’t quite as crowded as it usually is, although the projected rain may have played some part in that.

This was most noticeable in places where you’re used to waiting in line or standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

The usually crowded Food Building was pretty quiet when I visited in the morning. There was virtually no line to The Mouth Trap Cheese Curds stand – perhaps the most famous queue at the State Fair.

My guess would be that there were about 25% fewer people at the fair than usual.

Were people wearing masks? Not a lot. Mask usage increased indoors, but outdoors very few people wore them. Even though there were a lot of people there, it didn’t seem impossible to spread out.

Screen Shot 2021-08-27 at 8.34.52 AM

What else changed? I talked to a few vendors who expressed dealing with the same challenge: Staffing shortages. Even the State Fair isn’t immune to this economic phenomenon.

A couple of food vendors said it was more difficult to plan this year in terms of what quantity of food to order.

Related: The 2021 Minnesota State Fair – what you need to know

In an average year, between 50 and 100 vendors and exhibitors don’t return from the previous year.

This year, that number increased, with notable organizations like WCCO and Education Minnesota, and even some bands pulling out.

Masked workers serve visitors at Brim.

Masked workers serve visitors at Brim.

Iowa and Wisconsin state fairs saw a slight drop in attendance this year, but it’s impossible to know to what extent Minnesota will show up. After all, we have the largest state fair in the U.S. based on average daily attendance (Texas has us beat by total average attendance, but theirs runs longer).

Was it fun? Absolutely. The temps were cool, the crowds were lighter, and it genuinely felt like a long - overdue Minnesota get-together.

One thing is for sure: It may not be 100% back to normal – but it was good to be back.

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov / Minnesota Wild

Wild, Kaprizov agree to 5-year deal

The contract will keep the star forward in Minnesota through the 2025-26 season.

Dunn County WI homicide suspect

Charges: Man who killed 4 friends, drove bodies to WI said he 'snapped'

Charges filed Tuesday reveal more details about the grisly case.

Edison high school wikimedia commons

Mpls. school goes to distance learning after students exposed to COVID

In-person classes will resume next month, the district said.

Mike Zimmer

Does Mike Zimmer's coaching style mesh with the Vikings' strengths?

Time for Zimmer to put all of his faith in the offense and try to win shootouts?

gray wolf

6 Wisconsin tribes sue to end upcoming wolf hunt

They cite treaty rights and a "disastrous February hunt."

St Paul Grill steak facebook

St. Paul Grill, closed since March 2020, announces reopening date

The dining room will open to all visitors again next month.

police lights

Charges: Man fled police at 127 mph, caused crash that injured officer

The Sept. 16 incident led to a police chase going the wrong way on Hwy. 169 near St. Peter.

Bar beer

3 Minnesota teens 'pistol whipped' at bar in Sioux Falls

Police are investigating the incident, including why the teens were at the bar.

Ben Simmons

The latest Ben Simmons drama 1 week from the start of training camp

Training camp opens Sept. 28, at which point things could get really crazy.

court gavel

Judge finds man guilty in Hibbing Christmas Day murder

Jerome Spann fatally shot Jeryel McBeth on Christmas Day 2018.

Related

IMG_1313

State Fair 2019: Surviving the fair on nothing but free samples

Food writer Haley Nelson made a beeline for the sample heaven at the Grandstand.

State Fair

Minnesota State Fair 2021: The best new foods

Our food writer Haley Nelson picks out her favorite new dishes at the State Fair.

Vegan and vegetarian choices

Minnesota State Fair 2021: The best vegetarian and vegan options

Our food writer Haley Nelson has identified some top meat-free options.

Screen Shot 2021-08-28 at 10.57.53 AM

Minnesota State Fair 2021: The best food options that avoid the crowds

Food writer Haley Nelson has been looking for foods off the beaten track.

State Fair Food Guide 2018: The best new foods, and one to miss

Food writer Haley Nelson sampled some of the new dishes on offer this year.

State fair new foods

State Fair 2019: New foods you have to try, and some you shouldn't

Guest food writer Haley Nelson reveals her pick of the bunch.

State Fair Food Guide: The classics you have to try

Haley Nelson picks out the must-try classics.

Minnesota State Fair

There will be no state-ordered restrictions for the State Fair this year

Fair organizers could still implement their own COVID safety restrictions.