Minnesota State Fair attendance continues to trend far behind recent years

People line up at the gate of the Minnesota State Fair.
People line up before 6 a.m. to get into the first day of the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minn., on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Attendance at the Minnesota State Fair climbed above 100,000 on Saturday — but it remained just a fraction of attendance levels seen at the previous fair in 2019.

Fair officials reported 129,984 people passed through the gates on Saturday, compared to 209,105 on the same day of the 2019 fair.

Total attendance for the 2021 fair through Saturday stands at 269,373 — compared to 499,655 for the first three days in 2019, and 452,948 in 2018. The fair was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic.

A graph showing attendance at the Minnesota State Fair

Concerns about the ongoing pandemic and the fair's lack of a face-covering or COVID-19 vaccine requirement have kept some people away. Several rounds of thunderstorms over the first three days also likely contributed to lower turnout.

A woman stands at a state fair food stand
Bonnie Odell owns the Charcoal Hut food stand and has been at the Minnesota State Fair for 34 years. She said Sunday that business this year is down by about half.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Some vendors say the lower attendance is hurting their business. Bonnie Odell owns the Charcoal Hut food stand, and this year's Minnesota State Fair is her 34th.

Odell, who comes to the fair from Staples in central Minnesota, said "we have about half the business that we would normally have."

"This is kind of my retirement plan, so this is kind of important," she said of state fair business. "It impacts how we live the rest of the year."

Odell said she thinks there would be more fairgoers if there were more COVID restrictions, including a face mask requirement. She said she's hoping better weather will bring more people to the fairgrounds between now and Labor Day.

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