The opening day of the Great Minnesota Get-Together is still four months away, but state leaders are already suggesting that the whole thing could be called off.
During a daily press briefing last week, Gov. Tim Walz sounded doubtful when discussing the prospects of hosting the annual gathering, which consistently attracts more than two million visitors in its 12-day stretch.
“I think it’s a pretty tough lift. Certainly at this point in time I wouldn’t make a definitive call, but I also don’t want to give any false hope on this. I think it would be very difficult to see a state fair operating and I don’t know how you social distance in there,” the governor said.
The Minnesota State Fair’s crowded nature, one of “the great parts” of the event, is also the “worst thing for COVID-19 control,” Walz said.
“I know they’re looking at it. At this point in time I just think it’s going to be a hard lift but we’ll hope,” he added.
Jerry Hammer, general manager of the Minnesota State Fair, said in a statement that the “outlook for late summer events remains unknown.”
“As of now, there is no specific date by which a decision to hold the fair must be made. That picture will become more clear in the weeks ahead as we continue to be in contact with our partners that are vital to produce an event the size and scope of the Great Minnesota Get-Together,” he added.
Hammer noted that the fair’s success relies on workers from industries all across the state “who must be at their very best to successfully produce the type of event that Minnesota expects and deserves.”
But canceling the event altogether could have a devastating impact on the economy and small businesses, many of which count on revenue from the fair each year. The infamous Sweet Martha’s, for instance, brings in at least $3 million in just 12 days selling its product at the fair.
The year-round operations of the Minnesota State Fair generated an estimated $268 million in the Twin Cities economy in 2018. According to its website, the fair employs nearly 90 year-round, 450 seasonal, and 2,300 fair-time workers every year.
Hammer said that alternate fair dates, significant restrictions, or a change in the duration of the fair aren’t being considered, meaning the fair will either be canceled entirely or proceed as usual.
“Central to this year’s preparations are the directives of state, national and international health agencies,” he said. “We continue to remain hopeful that we can celebrate this year in our usual style, but ultimately please know and rest assured the State Fair will do the right thing for Minnesota, our nation and our world.”
– – –