Minnesota State Fair canceled because of the coronavirus

    Minnesota State Fair General Manager announced on May 22 the state fair would be canceled because of the coronavirus.

    For the sixth time in the fair’s 161 year history, the Minnesota State Fair is canceled.

    Minnesota State Fair Manager Jerry Hammer announced the decision Friday, saying the threat of COVID-19 makes it too dangerous for millions of people to congregate on the fairgrounds in August.

    “The science shows us that by the end of August, at best, we’ll be taking pretty slow steps in terms of getting back together and getting into mass gatherings,” Hammer said. “And that’s not good enough for a full speed run like the State Fair Marathon is.”

    The fair depends on thousands of agriculturists, educators, vendors, artists, entertainers, ride operators and others who need months to prepare for the 10 day event, Hammer said, meaning the fair’s board of managers needed to make a decision now.

    Social distancing and other safety measures would be nearly impossible to implement and would ruin the fair experience, Hammer said.

    “The only way the fair can really succeed is when we can operate the way we normally do,” Hammer said. “It’s kind of hard to celebrate with a mask. Can you imagine social distancing on the Park & Ride bus? One to a boat at the Old Mill or one at a time down the giant slide? How about a Grandstand concert where three-fourths of the seats are empty?”

    The fair was canceled before because of a virus. In 1946, the poliovirus forced the fair to close.

    In 2019, the fair set a new attendance record of 2.1 million people, with 184,740 people showing up on Labor Day to the 322-acre fairgrounds.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is a reporter for the Reformer focusing on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.