Updated: May 22, 2020 07:29 PM
Created: May 22, 2020 07:07 PM
There’s a silence at the Minnesota State Fair grounds. Booths are closed up and streets are wide open, with only an occasional biker or runner in sight.
It’s a sign of what’s to come this summer with the Great Minnesota Get-Together officially canceled.
“The most important thing is people's health, that's exactly why we can't do a fair,” said Jerry Hammer, Minnesota State Fair General Manager. “We have an obligation, we have to do the right thing for everybody.”
The State Fair board voted unanimously to cancel the fair at a meeting on Friday morning.
“Some have said they don’t care, they’ll come no matter what but a big part of our mission is that we’re accessible to all,” said Hammer. “A significant number of folks have some sort of health risk, some sort of compromised health in different age groups. If we can't do a fair for everybody, we just shouldn’t do it.”
Fair officials considered limiting attendance or requiring social distancing, face masks or temperature checks but determined it wasn’t feasible given the large crowds and setup of the fair.
They also looked at adding days to the fair to spread it out over a longer period of time in order to reduce crowds.
The Minnesota State Fair is part of a circuit of state fairs, with many vendors traveling around the country, which according to the fair is logistically difficult this year. Participation in 4-H, FFA and other agriculture programs was another factor. Fair officials didn’t feel they could extend the event beyond Labor Day with the start of school.
Postponing wasn’t an option, state officials said, because there aren’t any other dates where they can squeeze it in.
“Fairs are built on huge network of exhibitors, agriculturalists, educators, volunteers, sponsors, amusement operators, entertainers the list just goes on and they're all affected by this as well,” said Hammer. “They’ve all been affected greatly, a lot of the entertainers are at best leery about going out, many are already canceling for the summer and beyond."
“Within the agriculture world […] the same exhibitors who said they'd be here last month, the majority are now saying maybe not so much.”
It was a difficult day for fair vendors.
“I’ve probably talked to 10 different concessioners today and everyone is kind of bummed but everybody knows it's the right thing to do,” said Tim “Giggles” Weiss, owner of Giggles’ Campfire Grill.
He’s been in the north end for 20 years, serving hundreds of thousands of people every summer. Weiss has been preparing for the fair over the last month and a half, even working on social distancing plans in the event they need them.
“I hoped we were going to have a fair but safety comes first,” he said.
Still, it will take a financial toll.
“We’ve lost already a significant amount of revenue,” said Weiss.
He said they had more than 30 private events scheduled from early May through the first week of August. They need the water turned on at the fairgrounds in order to operate the venue for special events.
“We've had to cancel all of those parties through the end of June so far and I'll be probably making phone calls over the weekend,” said Weiss.
He’s staying positive though, looking forward to next year.
“We’ll get by, we’re Minnesota tough, Minnesota strong, we’ll make it happen,” he said. “We're going to be stronger and better for everything in the year 2021.”
Over at Blue Moon, owner Stephanie Olson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she was expecting the decision, knowing that it would be hard to pull off. She’s still disappointed.
“It impacts us financially, I mean this is how my family pays our bills,” she said. “As well as 60 of our employees it helps them pay their bills. So, financially it affects us, emotionally it's affecting us, we love the fair. Socially, I think it's affecting us as well and it's not just me - it's our whole community, it's our whole state.”
She said many of their employees have other jobs and would take two weeks of vacation just to work at the fair.
“I think we'll come back stronger than ever,” said Olson. “People will be really looking forward to coming back to the fair and it will be a great year next year.”
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