Minnesota State Fair sets attendance record: 1.82 million
Comfortable temperatures and a new West End Market helped the Minnesota State Fair draw record crowds this year.
Total attendance was 1,824,830, topping the 2009 record of 1,790,497. Last year’s attendance was 1,731,162.
"The weather for the most part worked in our favor," Fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette said Tuesday.
"There were a few iffy days, but I think the fact that the weather was breezy and mostly cool, compared to last year’s heat and humidity, people who didn’t come last year came this year."
Two single-day records were set during the 12-day event, including an all-time, single-day record of 252,092 people on the second Saturday of the Fair.
The previous single-day record was 236,197 on the second Sunday of last year’s Fair.
Saturday’s record came on a day of nearly perfect Fair weather, with a high of 77 and low humidity after a rainy Friday with lower-than-average attendance.
"That maybe attracted people to do something at the Fair, something outside," said meteorological technician Ross Carlyon of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. "A day after the rain, cool and comfortable. That’s probably what helped."
A Tuesday attendance record of 133,595 also was set this year, beating the 2009 mark of 129,423.
That was the day the Minnesota Timberwolves introduced three new players they got by trading Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That event, planned on short notice at the KMSP Fox 9 TV booth because all the Fair stages were booked, drew a couple of thousand spectators, Schuette said.
A Military Appreciation parade that same day helped bring in the crowds that set the Tuesday record.
Rain threatened on nine days of the Fair, but except for a half-inch downpour Friday, the weather was pleasant most days. The average high was just under 80 degrees and the average low was 65.
While the temperature surpassed 90 degrees six times during last year’s Fair, it didn’t hit 90 degrees once this year. It got close, at 89 degrees, on the first Sunday.
Attendance was strong for the Grandstand shows, which included four sellouts, but the new West End Market, billed as the the biggest change in the Fairgrounds since Franklin Roosevelt was president, got credit for bringing in curious people who might have skipped recent Fairs.
Fairgoers and vendors said it seemed as if more people visited the West End than came to the Heritage Square that it replaced.
"It’s been great. Sales have been up considerably," Gary Waryan, who has sold beaded jewelry at the Fair for 23 years, said going into the second weekend. "I think I’m probably up 30 percent at least."
Waryan said he had hoped the West End development would spark a revival, and for him, it did.
"I think Heritage Square was kind of going down. It was getting kind of stale," Waryan said. "Great character, great charm, but it was getting run down and traffic for me was dwindling. This was the breath of fresh air that I needed personally for my little business."
Rachel Hart of Apron Elegance said her business was up about 20 percent during the first half of the Fair.
"It used to be that we would get these big rushes of people," she said Friday. "People would come in and watch the bands and then they’d come out and we’d get rushed. Well now, it’s like we are just steady all the time, and my numbers are up during the week."
One issue vendors and fairgoers encountered during Friday’s downpour was poor drainage in West End Market and the new West End Transit Hub.
Those problems would be addressed before next year’s Fair, Schuette said.
"It’s the first year," she said. "The good news is we have 350-some days to make changes and tweaks to make it better for next year."
The success of this year’s Fair will make it easier to pay for those changes.
"With the Minnesota State Fair not getting taxpayer dollars or government funding, all of the money that comes in to the Fair stays with the Fair," Schuette said. "So if we have a successful Fair, that means we have more to invest in the physical plant, the historic buildings, the grounds and next year’s event.
"This is a victory for anybody and everybody who comes to the Fair."