Minnesota State Fair Canceled, Local Vendors Suffer Financial Blow

10:50 AM | Friday, May 22, 2020

The Minnesota State Fair, one of the state’s most popular yearly tourist attractions, has been canceled. The State Fair board of managers made the decision to cancel Friday by unanimous vote. The event attracts about two million people every year, including a record 2.1 million visitors last year.

“This isn’t a difficult decision. It’s the only decision,” said Jerry Hammer, general manager for the Minnesota State Fair, in a statement to CCX News.

“Navigating health risks is the most important piece in a very complex situation. In addition, the State Fair’s vast and strong network of partners and thousands of people are facing challenges that seriously hamper their ability to fully participate in the State Fair,” said Hammer.

Brooklyn Center Vendor: State Fair “More Than Half of My Income”

Debra McDonnell runs the Debra’s Glasscraft booth at State Fair.

Debra McDonnell’s booth Debra’s Glasscraft has been a staple at the Great Minnesota Get-Together for more than 30 years. The Brooklyn Center resident’s intricate glass art is a popular fair attraction. She was looking forward to setting up her booth at the coliseum this year.

“Financially, it’s going to be hard, that’s more than half of my income,” said McDonnell.

McDonnell says she doesn’t blame  Minnesota State Fair officials for canceling the event.

“They’re basing their decision on what the governor says about social distancing. I understand why, because if they have social distancing, it’s going to be impossible to do the fair,” she said.

McDonnell currently sells her creative glass art from her Brooklyn Center home.

Full Statement from Minnesota State Fair

The State Fair was scheduled for Aug. 27 through Labor Day, Sept. 7. The fair’s website has additional information, including an extensive questions and answers section. There’s also information about ticketing and refunds.

Since its inception, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and U.S.-Dakota War, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to federal government travel restrictions during World War II, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.

Here’s the full statement from General Manager Jerry Hammer:

Minnesota State Fair Canceled

Minnesota State Fair attracted a record 2.1 million visitors in 2019.

We’ve been working hard and doing our very best with preparations for the 2020 State Fair. The picture was cloudy in March, but things have cleared up considerably since then. Right now is the time of year when things need to really take off if we’re going to have a fair, but we can see that we’re out of runway and can’t get off the ground. There will be no State Fair this year.

Like everything during the past few months, it’s complex and difficult. The State Fair is built on a vast network of agriculturists, vendors, artists, entertainers, competitors, amusement operators, sponsors, State Fair staff and thousands more who always give their very best. They are the pillars of the fair, and almost all have been affected during the past two months. Some are doing okay, but many have eroded including some who provide our biggest and best programs. It’s a challenging time for our determined young people in youth agriculture programs. More and more livestock exhibitors, entertainers and attraction operators are concerned with going on the road this summer. Some commercial exhibitors are past their deadlines for getting products, and now there’s even a question of adequate supplies for food vendors. And many are having trouble finding people who are willing to work in crowds.

This will have a big impact on thousands of businesses and the tens of thousands of people whose talent, dedication and love bring the fair to life. We understand exactly what they’re going through because we’re going through the same thing.
We’ll face those challenges because the most important thing is your health. No one knows what things will be like at fair time, but we need to make decisions now based on what we know today, not how we hope things will be in August. And right now, all of the science says that if things go well, we’ll still be walking very carefully in three months. That’s far from ready to run a mass gathering marathon like the State Fair. Can you see social distancing on a Park & Ride bus, or at the Bandshell? One at a time on the Giant Slide? Can you imagine standing six feet apart in line for cookies? Me neither.

The State Fair needs to be a full-on celebration. That’s what makes it very special for so many of us, including young fair fan Addie who is 5 years old. She starts kindergarten this fall and she said,“I love the fair. There are a hundred things to do there. And it’s my birthday. It’s my favorite time of year.”

Millions of people love the fair just like Addie, even if it’s not their birthday. And that’s exactly why we can’t have a fair this year. We owe it to you now, and we owe it to posterity to give you the very best that we possibly can in a safe environment. By taking the tough road today, we guarantee that the fair’s future remains hopeful and bright.

A month ago, my good friend Carlos wrote,“If there’s no fair this year, it’s because they love us and want to see EVERYone next year.” He’s right. That’s the heart of the matter. We want to see you all for many years to come, when we can celebrate in true State Fair style.

So this isn’t a difficult decision. It’s the only decision. It’s the right thing to do. As we go through this strange summer, we’re extremely grateful for the understanding and support of everyone who makes the State Fair possible – especially the millions of fair fans from around the globe. The best thing we can all do right now is to help the world recover and heal. In the meantime, your team of State Fair pros is working hard to come back bigger, better, stronger and smarter in ‘21. We’ll see you next year at the Great Minnesota Get-Back-Together.”

CCX News Reporter Sonya Goins contributed to this report

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