ST. PAUL -- With droves of people choosing to stay away this year, the Great Minnesota Get-Together was more like the Great Minnesota Stay-At-Home Together.
State Fair officials said Tuesday, Sept. 7, that 1,301,584 people went through the gates, the lowest attendance in 44 years and the result of concern over the delta variant and poor weather over the first three days. The 12-day run returned Aug. 26 after a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic.
The last time the Fair had a lower turnout was in 1977, when 1,299,017 attended.
In recent years, the State Fair has attracted more than 2 million visitors annually, and a record of 2,126,551 came out in 2019. A one-day attendance record was set on a Saturday in 2018 when 270,426 people visited.
“Given the issues we faced, attendance was perfect this year,” State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said in a Fair statement. “The vast majority of State Fair activities are outdoors, and the Fairgrounds are huge, giving people plenty of space to enjoy the fair.”
Fair officials decided against mask mandates or vaccination requirements for Fairgoers, citing challenges around backups at gates and enforcement. Instead, visitors were urged to follow state Department of Health guidelines, such as getting vaccinated beforehand or at the Fair, social distance and mask-up indoors and outdoors in crowded settings.
Opening day’s saw a measly crowd of 61,983 was the lowest one day total in recent years, and one affected by afternoon thunderstorms.
Crowds did not top the 150,000 mark until this past Saturday, day 10, although day four, which was the first rain-free day, came close with a tally just over 149,000.
Labor Day attendance of 123,578 was more than 61,000 fewer visitors than in 2019.
The 2022 Minnesota State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 25 through Labor Day, Sept. 5.