More than 100 vendors have decided not to return to the Minnesota State Fair this year, for reasons that includes COVID-19 and staffing shortages.
Danielle Dullinger, a spokesperson for Minnesota State Fair, told Bring Me The News on Friday that about 150 vendors chose not to return, but in a regular year, anywhere between 75 and 100 vendors choose not to return for various reasons.
At this year's Great Minnesota Get-Together, there will still be approximately 975 vendors, including dozens of new ones, selling food and merchandise or putting on exhibits across the fairgrounds.
"While some vendors have decided not to return this year due to COVID-19 concerns, some vendors were not able to return due to staffing shortages, family emergencies, supply chain issues, etc.," Dullinger said.
Dullinger noted hiring has been a "challenge" for some vendors, as well as the State Fair and many in the hospitality industry.
"Because of this, we're asking guests for their patience this year, whether that be waiting in line for food or waiting to get into the gates of the fair," Dullinger said. "We are encouraging guests to get their tickets before they arrive at the fair to avoid the potential lines."
While some vendors are skipping the fair altogether, others are changing how they do things. For example, the Minnesota DNR will have its building closed this year, but there will still be activities in the park, including fish pond talks, live entertainment and raptor displays.
"The vendors are doing everything they can to present the best fair possible in these challenging times," Dullinger said.
A few other things will be canceled this year, including the Giant Sing Along, with plans to have it back next year. In its place is an open area where fairgoers can enjoy their food and take a break, Dullinger said.
And there won't be any live births at the Miracle of Birth Center this year. However, you can still see the baby animals at the barn.
"For the most part, if a vendor decided not to participate this year or if an event or area is missing, we chose not to fill that space and instead create more space for guests to spread out," Dullinger said.
Related [Aug. 20]: Attendance at Wisconsin State Fair down nearly 26% compared to 2019
Dullinger encourages people to visit the State Fair's website, acknowledging things "may look different this year."
"We are still working incredibly hard to ensure this year's Minnesota State Fair is the best it can possibly be," Dullinger said, adding, "We understand that not everyone may be comfortable attending the fair this year. We hope to see them next year."
The Minnesota State Fair has faced criticism for not requiring vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests to visit the fair, and for not requiring masks — instead only urging people to wear them.
"For those who do attend, we strongly encourage you to wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. We thank guests in advance for helping us to keep everyone safe," Dullinger said.
The Minnesota State Fair begins Aug. 26 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 6. It was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.