Minnesota State Fair first-day attendance down by half

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — First-day attendance at the Minnesota State Fair was down by roughly half as the fair returned after missing last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With simmering concern over the delta variant, and fair officials declining to require masks or proof of vaccinations, Thursday’s attendance was 61,983. That’s less than half of the 2019 record of about 133,000. Almost 123,000 people attended the first day of the fair in 2018.

Thursday’s light turnout was also likely affected by violent thunderstorms that moved through the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in the afternoon.

Fair officials announced earlier this month they wouldn’t require face masks or proof of vaccination to attend this year’s event. Around 150 vendors have pulled out, though labor shortages and supply chain issues have also been cited as factors.

The event dubbed the Great Minnesota Get-Together typically draws more than 2 million people during its nearly two-week run.