The Minnesota State Fair has started planning for this summer's Great Minnesota Get-Together despite suffering huge losses due to the pandemic canceling the 2020 event, and with no sign yet of when restrictions on large-scale events will be lifted.
The Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which is the governing body of the State Fair, held its 162nd annual meeting this week. During which State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer reported the "operation remains intact and planning is proceeding with different scenarios for 2021," a news release said.
“From the day we canceled, our priority has been to ensure the future of the fair by holding our operation together,” Hammer said. “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.
The 2021 Minnesota State Fair begins Aug. 26 and runs for 12 days, ending Labor Day, Sept. 6. No other details about what the "different scenarios" could look like were released Friday.
The fair did report that nearly all of the State Fair's revenue dried up last year, resulting in it reporting an operating loss of $16.2 million.
As a result, the State Fair dramatically slowed the amount of maintenance and improvements that were done on the fairgrounds. Typically, the fair spends $12 million a year on such improvements, but in 2020 it only spent $2.4 million, which was used on essential maintenance, most of which happened prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fair organizers did note they were successful in keeping fair-goers engaged last year, citing two weeks-long State Fair food parades, which sold out; an at-home edition of the fair; an online marketplace to support State Fair vendors; four virtual competitions; and the in-person and virtual 2020 Fine Arts Exhibition of Minnesota.
At the meeting, the society also elected or re-elected members to leadership roles on the fair's board.