Minnesota State Fair adds officers, taps federal agents to keep fairgrounds safe in 2023

Minnesota State Fair adds officers, taps federal agents to keep fairgrounds safe in 2023

Minnesota State Fair adds officers, taps federal agents to keep fairgrounds safe in 2023

The Minnesota State Fair is implementing multiple safety changes for this year’s event.

“We have to adjust and adapt and we’re constantly evaluating what we need to do to provide safety and security,” said State Fair Police Chief Ron Knafla.

The Minnesota State Fair Police Department, which is made up of law enforcement from 65 agencies across the state, will grow by 30% this year.

The department will have 170 officers, compared to 130 last year.

The fair will continue partnerships with a number of local agencies, including the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, the sheriff’s offices in Ramsey and Hennepin counties, and state agencies such as the Minnesota State Patrol.

For the first time, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be on hand to help patrol the perimeter of the fairgrounds.

Knafla said the fair is now working with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as well.

“They’re mostly an invisible presence,” Knafla said. “One of the things we have working in our favor is we have intelligence resources feeding us information so we can at least have an idea of what to expect and what we can plan for.”

The changes come in the face of safety concerns at large-scale events nationwide.

The Minnesota State Fair has also experienced issues in recent years, including a shooting last year that left one person hurt and a large crowd scattering near the Midway.

Back in 2019, three people were shot right outside the main gate of the fair.

“Everything’s on our radar. We try to think of anything and everything we need to plan for,” Knafla said. “We’ve enhanced the fence around the fairgrounds to tighten up the security, any points we felt were a concern. We’ve added more metal detectors. We’ve added more cameras over the last year.”

He said the fair will also bring in extra barricades that can stop a vehicle from driving into a crowd.

“They’re placed on the ground and it’s got a hydraulic system that lifts up steel plates that prevent vehicles from getting through,” Knafla said.

He noted there will be around-the-clock patrols to protect vendor booths and fair equipment, along with undercover officers on site.

“We’ve got part of our security plan that involves officers that you’re not going to know are out there. So you could be standing in line for a corn dog or your cheese curds and you might be standing right next to an officer and not know it,” Knafla said.

While smoking marijuana is now legal in Minnesota, it will not be allowed on the fairgrounds.

Knafla said they will confront any fairgoer who is breaking the rules and explain the new policy.

“We’ll deal with things on a case-by-case basis, but education, I think, is the best policy,” Knafla said.

The safety and security budget for this year’s State Fair tops $5 million, which is nearly double what was spent in 2019.

More information on what items can be brought into the fairgrounds is available on the State Fair website.