State Fair closes after a run of good weather, big attendance

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016

By Beena Raghavendran

Minneapolis Star Tribune

The final day at the Minnesota State Fair on Monday was just the way it has been for the last 12 days: packed with people.

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As summer unofficially came to a close, the fair was well on its way toward its biggest attendance year ever, though fair officials won’t know the final numbers until Tuesday.

After a run that included three record-breaking attendance days, just about 40,000 more people needed to flood through the fair’s gates Monday to beat the previous record of 1,824,830 total attendance, set in 2014. The fairgoers still needed for a record were a small fraction of the fair’s daily totals this year, which ranged from 111,902 on opening day to 260,374 — a daily record set Saturday.

Fair administration and visitors had some theories about the high attendance this year.

Many pointed to the weather, which smiled on fairgoers, staff and animals alike. The days were cool and pleasant, with overnight rain that didn’t interfere with the day’s festivities.

There was also the need for a getaway in what has been a tough year, from the death of Prince to the discovery of Jacob Wetterling’s remains, said spokeswoman Brienna Schuette. At the fair, worries are left in the parking lot, she said.

“People needed a place for healing,” she said.

In a decade, she added, she’s never seen a year when attendance surpassed the previous year by so much, though other particularly well-attended years included 2014 and 2009.

On a cool but muggy Monday, people rushed to get one last photo in front of a wall that reads “Greetings from Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Two kids pointed up at the Sky Glider, exclaiming at the colors of the cars dangling from cables above.

People probably flocked to the fair this year because it wasn’t so hot, said Monique Wright, 47, of Brooklyn Park. Zach Boesel, 19, of Forest Lake, added that the busing system was better at this year’s fair.

Greg Lund, 52, of Coon Rapids, said everybody wants to go to the fair, and bosses don’t seem to mind when employees take off for the festivities.

“Employers are more forgiving,” he said.

Around 6 p.m., it had started to sprinkle, and fairgoers started to pull on jackets and dive under umbrellas. But not a group of four young ladies, who sat together on a curb.

“We just embrace it,” said Nora Johnson, 23, of Minneapolis, as she and the others laughed.