State Fair opens with new restrictions for smokers

Smoking spot at the State Fair
Smokers can no longer light up anywhere on the fairgrounds. This year at the Minnesota State Fair, there are designated smoking areas around the grounds. The fair map highlights locations.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Nancy Larsen smokes, so you'd expect the State Fair's tougher smoking policy to bug her. But she's fine with it and doesn't mind being "segregated" while she has a cigarette.

"I think it's great to have it away from kids," said Larsen as she sat near the State Fair administration building in one of the fair's 18 designated smoking areas. Some of the spots should be even more removed from the public, she added.

John Amacher, though, thinks it won't be long until smoking at the fair is outlawed, just like in bars and restaurants. "Years ago, they would have never gotten by with that with the bars," said Amacher, a retired carpenter. "The people would have told them to go to hell. That's what they should have done with this."

Opinions on the new smoking rules were easy to find Thursday as excited fairgoers began trickling through the main gates on Dan Patch Avenue, searching for new attractions and old favorites on the State Fair's opening day.

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Driven by feedback from fair visitors, the smoking policy change had been in the works for a while. Some fairgoers wanted to ban it altogether, fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette said.

Right now, there are no plans to banish smoking from the fair completely. Smokers in non-designated areas will not be scolded.

"Our philosophy really is this is the great Minnesota get-together. This is a friendly place," Schuette said. "We'll offer friendly reminders that there are these designated areas to have a cigarette on the grounds now."

The new policy was a hit with some nonsmokers, including Jan Bohn from Nisswa. She already loved everything about the State Fair. The new smoking policy made it even better.

In past fairs, Bohn said, she didn't like being in the wake of a smoker while walking along the street or sitting at a bench.

There is still no smoking in fair buildings or in the entertainment seating areas. The new outside smoking areas are marked on maps and at the information kiosks with the symbol of a lit cigarette.

Some are a little hard to find. No large signs identify the areas -- in some spots they are just standalone ashtrays near groups of benches.

Fair staff may need to make some tweaks here and there, Schuette said.