a large crowd of fairgoers visited the Minnesota State Fair.
They arrived, they saw, and they wandered.
A beautiful August day and two years of unmet demand led to huge attendance at Thursday’s opening day for the Minnesota State Fair.
Tens of thousands walked the fairgrounds at Falcon Heights, north of St. Paul. Although the official first day attendance has not been announced, fair officials and vendors said that it was a huge opening.
Due to COVID, the fair was cancelled in 2020. The fair returned last year but 2021 attendance was 60 percent lower than in 2019. This is because many people were still afraid to venture outside.
In a small ceremony on Thursday morning, Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer opened the fair. He quoted an employee who had observed that “Last year, we were back; but this year, we’re really back.”
While many were focused on the low attendance in 2021, Hammer stated that the fair was attended by the most people in North America and the world since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Let’s not forget last year. The big Thursday crowd might have noticed some structural changes. They now open at 7 a.m., instead of 6 a.m., and close at 11 p.m. rather than midnight. Hammer stated that attendance was very low between 6 and 7 o’clock in the evening, and that by 11 p.m. each night most concessions and booths were closed, except for the Midway rides, which is the main late-night gathering spot. Hammer stated that vendors will be able to manage labor shortages and employees will have more time to clean the booths overnight.
Prices are rising this year. Adult admission costs $17. However, there are discounts for seniors and children. Due to the low attendance, the fair suffered a loss of $16.5 million in 2020.
Other prices have also gone up. The price of foot-long hot dogs has gone up from $7 to $8 and the cost of a bucket Sweet Martha’s cookies at $19 is a dollar higher.
Manager Zach Ahrens said that while Tom Thumb donuts still cost $6 per bag, the bucket price for donuts went up one dollar to $16. He said that donut sales were down by 60% last year, but he looked around at the fairgrounds and noticed the long line in front of his booth.
The fair’s Bargain book, which contains lots of coupons for food or products, costs $5.
It wouldn’t be MinnPost State Fair without politicians and booths.
Many politicians were present to address the crowd on Thursday. Gov. Tim Walz, and Lt. Governor. Peggy Flanagan took pictures in front their booth. Many, many pictures.
Walz told a woman who showed up at Walz’s house with two cups of beer in her hand that she was happy to confirm the perceptions of many people about her.
Flanagan stated that she grew up enjoying the fair and that “coming here now, seeing my name on a booth, was something that brought tears to my eyes.”
Scott Jensen, the GOP’s gubernatorial hopeful, spent hours at his booth in front of Butterfly Building, engaging with passersby, shaking hands, and engaging in conversation. The booth was divided into two halves, one half with purple to promote Lt. Gov. Candidate Matt Birk was a former Viking who wore his tag line “Get off the Bench” and the other half featured Jensen’s name, motto and slogan: “Heal Minnesota.”
Birk’s name has been highlighted in a lot of advertising, including billboards with his name above Jensen.
Jensen volunteers at the booth stated that fairgoers wanted information about inflation and school choices.
On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was joined by a group of people for a photo shoot. She had brought Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, to the fair earlier in the day. Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Ilhanomar, 5
Dist. were there as well with Buttigieg who was visiting town to promote transit improvements.
Klobuchar’s stand is located across the Dairy Building and directly in front of My Pillow. Mike Lindell wasn’t there.
Third Dist. is the other member of Congress currently in office with a separate fair stand. Rep. Dean Phillips. Although he isn’t there every day, Jeff Edelstein and Bev Edelstein, both of Bloomington, are his volunteers. They take notes and relay the concerns and comments of fairgoers to them. Veterans’ issues and military concerns are a frequent topic. People will sometimes ask about getting their child internships in D.C.
Other elected officials and candidates of the major parties also make appearances at the GOP or DFL buildings. They have their photos and literature. They are quite close together, which is probably a good thing.
Each party has a booth with merchandise and signs, including the Libertarian Party and Independence Party.
Ryan Wilson, Republican candidate for the office of state auditor, is another politician who has a separate booth.
The back wall of Education Building houses the booths for the state Senate and House. Each booth offers a poll on ballot-like forms, so citizens can weigh in on key issues such as energy, transportation, education and gambling.
A staffer at the Senate booth said: “The polls look similar, but ours has more sophistication.” We are the top body.
The most unusual booth was not even a booth. It was a portable submarine that had a person inside. This allowed Mike Weiler to promote his candidacy against Dean Phillips, the Republican nominee for the Third District.
Weiler, a Navy submarine veteran is the perfect candidate for the floating booth. It’s also cheaper than a fixed booth. He said, “I am running as a conservative so I’m frugal about my campaign money.”
Weiler, however, was apparently sailing in unfriendly water. It turns out that there are rules for this type of thing, and Weiler was instructed to stop.
A fair spokesperson stated that “this type of’mobile booth” is against fair booth rules, which restrict activity to a fixed location.