Minnesotans have hope for 2021 State Fair

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The Minnesota State Fair’s general manager told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ the fair will return in 2021.

"We sure hope so. It depends if we stay on this positive trajectory," said Jerry Hammer, the fair’s general manager. "At this point, we’re still okay. We’re still in good enough shape where we don’t have to make a hard decision on anything yet. We don’t have to pull the pin on anything. We’re still very optimistic."

The fair is scheduled for Aug. 26 through Sept. 6.

A majority of Minnesotans believe it is possible to safely hold the State Fair this year, according to a recent KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. Of the 600 adults surveyed, 62% said it is possible, 20% believe it is not possible and 17% were unsure.

When asked if they would attend the 2021 State Fair, 22% said they are very likely to attend, 29% said somewhat likely, 21% said not very likely, 22% said not at all and 6% said not sure.

Hammer said planning continues to move forward, although it is unclear what the various attractions may look like come August.

"A lot of those decisions, actually most of them, we don’t need to make right now. We want to keep as many options open as we possibly can, so we’ll just see how things play out," Hammer said.

The KSTP/SurveyUSA poll asked how likely respondents would be to go on rides at the midway: 19% said very likely, 22% said somewhat likely, 25% said not very likely, 30% said not at all likely and 4% said not sure.

A significantly higher number reported they would go to farm animal exhibits: 45% said very likely, 36% said somewhat likely, 9% said not very likely, 9% said not at all, 2% said not sure.

A vast majority reported they would eat food at the fair: 71% said very likely, 19% said somewhat likely, 5% said not very likely, 4% said not at all, 1% said not sure.

As for concerts at the grandstand, 17% said they were very likely to attend, 37% said somewhat likely, 22% said not very likely, 21% said not at all and 3% said not sure.

Hammer said they normally would have announced most of the grandstand acts by this point in the year, but there are still many uncertainties surrounding concerts and large gatherings.

So far, the fair has only said that concerts originally scheduled for 2020 plan to return for 2021, such as Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and the Doobie Brothers. They have not announced any new shows.

"Booking acts, they’re anxious to work, so that part of it is going just fine. The question is, do we put tickets on sale? Are we confident enough to do that," Hammer said. "Right now, we have the luxury of some time to see how things play out with the Twins, with concerts, with some of the music festivals coming up."

Hammer also said no decisions have been made about restrictions and rules on the fairgrounds yet.

"In the middle of March, it’s really difficult to say. We are planning on a number of scenarios," Hammer said. "I don’t know that any of us expect it will look like the fair in 2019, for instance, with over two million people. We don’t know if that will happen. But we are going to do everything we can to give Minnesotans a great experience."

The KSTP/SurveyUSA poll asked Minnesotans for their thoughts on fairground crowds, with 55% saying the amount of people entering each day should be limited, 23% saying they do not think there should be limits and 21% saying they are not sure.

On the topic of outdoor masking at the fair, 50% said it should be mandatory, 39% said it should be optional and 11% said they were not sure.

Hammer said there are many factors that could change over the next five months, but for now the planning is moving forward and he remains hopeful.

"We can’t wait to get everybody back at the fair, the ‘Great Minnesota Get-Back-Together,’" Hammer said.