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The 2021 Minnesota State Fair: Everything you need to know

From ticket prices to new foods to health protocols, we've got you covered.

The Minnesota State Fair is just days away. Here's everything you need to know for planning your 2021 Get-Together adventure.

Dates

The 2021 Minnesota State Fair run Thursday, Aug. 26 through Labor Day (that's Monday, Sept. 6).

COVID-19: Vaccinations and masks

The Minnesota State Fair revealed new COVID-19 guidance on Aug. 18. The fair is urging attendees to follow their face mask guidance while at the get-together, and asking those who aren't vaccinated yet to reconsider.

The fair will not require people to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test. And it's asking people who are over the age of 2 and medically able to wear a face covering in three specific circumstances:

  • Indoors, whether you're vaccinated and unvaccinated
  • Outdoors in crowded settings where you can't socially distance, especially if you are not vaccinated
  • At independent vendor booths where they require everyone to wear a mask

"We ask that those who attend do so because they are willing to follow our health guidance — not because it’s mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do," the fair said.

Shortly after the fair's announcement, five DFL lawmakers wrote a letter urging organizers to reconsider. They argued a fair without appropriate COVID mitigation measures risks being a "super-spreader event."

Read more about the State Fair COVID-19 protocols here

Ticket prices

Admission during the fair is $16 for most people (13-64 years old), and $14 for seniors (65-plus) and kids (5-12). Children 4 and under get in for free.

But, pre-fair tickets are $13 for everyone ages 5 and up until 9 p.m., Aug. 25. You can buy them online here, via regular mail (though plan for two weeks' delivery time), through the phone, at the State Fairgrounds Ticket Office or at select Cub Foods locations.

Will 2020 tickets be honored?

If you purchased a ticket for the cancelled 2020 Minnesota State Fair, it will be valid for 2021. You don't need to do anything — just bring it to the gate and get it scanned while entering, the fair says.

Discount days

The State Fair's discount days return for 2021. They include:

Opening Day (Thursday, Aug. 26)
$14 for adults (13-64)
$11 for seniors (65+)
$11 for kids (5-12)

Seniors Day (Monday, Aug. 30)
$11 for seniors (65+)

Military Appreciation Day (Tuesday, Aug. 31)
For active military, their spouses and kids; retired military and their spouses; and military veterans and their spouses, with proof of service.
$11 for adults (13-64)
$11 for seniors (65+)
$11 for kids (5-12)

Kid Day (Wednesday, Sept. 1)
$11 for kids (5-12)

Seniors Day (Thursday, Sept. 2)
$11 for seniors (65+)

Kids Day (Monday, Sept. 6)
11 for kids (5-12)

New foods

This is why we State Fair, right? The intentionally over-the-top, creative, celebratory, delicious food on offer.

There are 26 new foods on offer. Here are 10 that people seem to be intrigued by — but make sure to look at the full list at the link below, in case there's something else you're excited by.

Photo gallery: The full list of new State Fair foods

New beers, seltzers and beverages

A whopping 56 new drinks will debut at the Minnesota State Fair in 2021. You'll be able to choose from some specially brewed IPAs, ales and ciders, as well as more unique drinks, such as a Kirby Pucker Watermelon Paloma, an Aromatic Mike’s® Hard Lemonade Slushie or a Flirty Fruity Bubbles wine that features crushed Fruity Pebbles cereal on the rim. There are too many to list here, but we organized the new drinks by location and listed them here.

Read more about the new beers and beverages here

New food vendors

The State Fair will welcome six brand new food vendors for 2021:

  • Fluffy's Hand Cut Donuts — Gourmet, hand-cut yeast donuts
  • Scenic 61 by New Scenic Cafe — Street food inspired by the North Shore
  • Midtown Global Market's Andy's Garage — Vegetarian Chorizo corn dog and more, only at the fair Aug. 26-31
  • Summer Lakes Beverage — Fresh-brewed tea, citrus drinks and mocktails
  • Baba’s — A wide assortment of hummus bowls, served with pita
  • Solem Concessions Cheese Curds and Mini Donuts — Blueberry mini donuts and seasoned (ranch, garlic and original) cheese curds

Read more about them here and here

Mighty Midway tickets

A new 55-foot-tall roller coaster called Riptide will make its State Fair Midway debut this year, so if you enjoy thrill rides, look out for that.

Midway tickets are $15 for a sheet of 20 before the fair. At the fair, it's $1 per ticket, $25 for 28 tickets, or $50 for 60 tickets. Most rides cost 4-6 tickets, while most carnival games require 4 tickets. Midway hours are 10 a.m.-midnight most days.

There are also special discount and promotion days, meaning cheaper ride and game prices, better prizes or additional plays. Those days are:

  • Thursday, Aug. 26
  • Monday, Aug. 30
  • Wednesday, Sept. 1
  • Monday, Sept. 6

With early bird promotion specials offered on the following days before 1 p.m.:

  • Friday, Aug. 27
  • Tuesday, Aug. 31
  • Thursday, Sept. 2
  • Friday, Sept. 3

Free entertainment lineup

What is a Minnesota State Fair without free entertainment? The 2021 lineup includes 900 shows by more than 100 acts.

That includes music by Sister Sledge, Ezra Ray Hart, The Legendary Wailers, Yam Haus, and Nur-D. 

And shows such as All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash show and Timberworks Lumberjack Show are back, as is the daily parade, karaoke and magic shows.

See the full list of free entertainment here

Grandstand shows

The Grandstand will once again be rocking with big names, including Miranda Lambert on Aug. 26, Tim McGraw Sept. 1 and the Chainsmokers Sept. 2. Here's the quick rundown:

  • Miranda Lambert with guest Lindsay El — Ag. 26
  • Maren Morris with guest to be announced — Aug. 27
  • The Current’s Music On-A-Stick featuring Lake Street Dive with Kiss the Tiger — Aug. 28
  • TLC and Shaggy with guest Bone Thugs-n-Harmony — Aug. 29
  • The Spinners with guests Little Anthony & The Imperials and The Grass Roots — Aug. 30
  • The Doobie Brothers featuring Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, Pat Simmons, John McFee with guest Dirty Dozen Brass Band — Aug. 31
  • Tim McGraw with guest Midland — Sept. 1
  • The Chainsmokers with guest GASHI — Sept. 2
  • Music, Movie and a Conversation with Kevin Costner with guest Modern West — Sept. 3
  • George Thorogood & The Destroyers with guest Night Ranger — Sept. 
  • State Fair Amateur Talent Contest Finals — Sept. 5
  • Darci Lynne: My Lips Are Sealed (Except When They’re Not) with guest Okee Dokee Brothers — Sept. 6

You can see concert times and ticket prices here

New attractions and exhibits

A handful of new attractions will debut at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair, including the Joyful World Mural Park, Destination Healthy Skin, Catch Co.'s Bassmobile and Fraser Sensory Building 

A free COVID vaccination clinic will also be on-site.

Read more about the new attractions here

Who has pulled out of the fair?

The number of entertainment acts, groups and vendors that have opted to forego this year's State Fair — mostly due to concerns over the COVID-19 masking and vaccination policies — continues to grow. Here's a list of them so far:

In addition, about 150 vendors opted not to return for 2021.

Cancelled or modified attractions

Some attractions, exhibits and events have been cancelled or modified, either due to COVID-19 or as an operational decision. These will not be at the State Fair this year:

  • 3rd Lair SkatePark
  • EquiMania!™
  • Festival of Nations Demonstration Stage
  • Giant Sing Along
  • Go Karts
  • Great Big Sandbox
  • Laser Encore’s Laser Hitz Show
  • River Raft Ride

Other changes to watch for:

- The CHS Miracle of Birth Center will have newborn farm animals, rather than showing live births.

- The Llama Costume Contest is moving to the Warner Coliseum

- Sean Emery, the longest-running entertainer at the State Fair, retired and won't partake this year

- Dan Patch Park will be open green space on three days, rather than the usual  Read & Ride Day, Hubbard Broadcasting Day and AARP Day

- Adventure Park with the extreme thrill rides is now south of Judson Avenue, between the CHS Miracle of Birth Center and the Dairy Building

- The two remaining church dining halls will not offer indoor dining. Hamline will sell ice cream from a pick-up menu, while Salem plans to have its full menu, but only to go.

Freebies, deals and giveaways

As usual, the State Fair will be full of opportunities to snag some free or discounted items. There is a multipage guide that will show you which items are available, where those booths or attractions are located on the fairgrounds, and the days or times they will be offered.

View or print: The State Fair's deals, drawings and giveaways guide

Express buses, parking lots

There will be express buses, as usual, but fewer than normal. Metro Transit had to cut back its service to the fair for 2021 due to a driver shortage. There will be 10 express routes, which you can view here. Single tickets are $5 in advance or $6 cash. There are also more than two dozen free park and ride spots (some are only open on weekends). Find those here.

Parking at the fairgrounds is once again available on a first come, first serve basis. They open at 6 a.m. each day of the fair. It's $16, cash only, per vehicle. Bicyclists can lock their bikes up in a corral for free. A motorcycle-specific lot is available on Como Avenue near the International Institute, for $10 per vehicle. See all parking details here.

Odds and ends

Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern seems skeptical of State Fair food, referring to the beloved dishes as "gimmicks." But he is a State Fair fanatic, and on his website you can find some of his essential State Fair dishes.

The State Fair planned to hire more than 1,000 workers to help put on this year's Get-Together.

You won't see the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson undertake his popular annual endurance trial of eating every new food at the Minnesota State Fair on opening day. He has moved to a new beat for the paper.

A gun rights group, just a few weeks before opening day, filed a lawsuit calling the State Fair's firearms ban unconstitutional, and demanding they be allowed to carry guns on the fairgrounds. The State Fair, which has banned weapons for years, declined to comment.

A Stillwater family has launched a business that sells Minnesota State Fair vendor-branded apparel, so people can support their favorite spots. (Food vendors aren't allowed to sell apparel themselves on fairgrounds.)

On Aug. 25, Gov. Tim Walz announced anyone who receives their first COVID vaccination shot at the State Fair will receive a $100 Visa gift card.

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