comScore

How does the Minnesota State Fair get canceled? We asked the State Fair.

Maybe this guy's The Decider?

Maybe this guy's The Decider? Star Tribune

Last year, the Minnesota State Fair set a new attendance record of 2.1 million people. 

That’s because, h8rs aside, there are few things Minnesotans love like the fair. It ain’t called the Great Minnesota Get-Together for nothing. 

In more ways than one, the State Fair plays by its own rules. This is something its devotees love about it. Only at the fair can you quench your thirst at an all-you-can-drink milk stand, take in a llama costume contest, down a giant eggroll on a stick, win a stuffed Godzilla from the Midway, and visit the year’s dahlia competitors, adjacent to the art scarecrows, all in one day.

It's genuinely a world unto itself, governed in a manner that can feel mysterious to onlookers (and we’re not talking about the secrets to Midway glory).

Take, for example, how the fairgrounds is a true enclave. Though it shares borders with St. Paul and Falcon Heights, the fair is its own thing. It also has its own police force, and for 111 years, had its own United States Post Office, which only ceased operations in 2012. It is governed by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which is “a quasi-state agency" that is "completely self-supporting.” Since 1949, the fair hasn’t received any public money or government appropriations.

The 2020 Minnesota State Fair is scheduled for August 27 through September 7. As early signs suggest Minnesota is doing its part in flattening that dang curve, visions of fair…ies, with their funnel cakes dusted in sugar, and charred corn dripping with butter, have begun materializing.

So have tweets with “fun facts” like:

Chapter 37 of Minnesota’s state code REQUIRES that the fair be put on, & it would likely require a determination of public health emergency in August in order to legally stop it. Otherwise the fair would be breaking the law if it closes.

After trying and failing to make sense of that chapter of state code, we decided we’d rather go see the Wizard for the real answer… because in this time, what good is false hope? We appreciate order. Plus, it feels nice to know how decisions are made, and why things are the way they are, y'know? 

SPOILER: We don’t know if the State Fair is canceled (or isn't!). We didn’t even ask! The fair will tell us when they’re ready. Stay inside in the meantime, y’all. Do it for the fair.

“To say that the State Agricultural Society is absolutely required to hold an annual fair may be a bit of a stretch,” the Minnesota State Fair responded, in a singular voice. (No, really.) “The enabling statute says that the State Fairgrounds are to be held ‘forever’ under the management and control of the Society for ‘annual fairs and at other times determined by the Society.’” 

“The requirement of holding an annual fair can and has been superseded during the national emergency of World War II (1945) and the public health crisis of the 1946 polio epidemic. In both cases, the decision to not hold a fair was made jointly by Federal, State and Society officials,” they? it? continued. 

Since 1859, the Minnesota State Fair has been held every year but five. The last time, as mentioned above, was canceled due to a polio outbreak in 1946. Back in 1893, no one felt like competing with Chicago when they hosted the World’s Columbian Expo. The others non-fairs involved ammunition: World War II prevented the 1945 gathering, and the American Civil War and US-Dakota War of 1862 interfered with 1861 and 1862’s occasions.

When asked if (and how) that process has changed since the Fair was last closed, the entity responded, “There is no real formal process. It’s more about taking a pragmatic approach to current circumstances. Regardless, the State Fair will always do the right thing for our state, our nation and our world.”

Take heart knowing the fair-Borg have your best interests at heart, no matter what lies ahead, even if your author is now somewhat convinced "no real formal process" means they're reading CDC briefings while riding the Sky Glider back and forth over the empty grounds, sipping on the world's best lemonade.

…At least that's what I would do. And (plainly) why I'm not in charge of 2.1 million people this August.

Correction 4/8/20 4:30 p.m.: A previous version of this article referred to the US-Dakota War of 1862 by an antiquated name. We sincerely regret the error.




SEE MORE EVENTS