ST. PAUL — In what could be a prelude to the main event in August, Minnesota State Fair organizers will host five days of festivities at the fairgrounds Memorial Day weekend May 27-31.

Fewer food vendors and merchandisers will post up for the event than would typically be featured at the summertime staple, and fairgoers will have to wear face masks and practice social distancing in light of the coronavirus pandemic. But the "Kickoff to Summer at the Fair," announced Tuesday, May 4, will still be the closest thing to a normal State Fair that Minnesotans have had the chance to experience in more than a year: The 2020 Minnesota State Fair was canceled due to the pandemic.

Whether a full-fledged 2021 State Fair will follow the preview event has yet to be determined, according to fair spokesperson Danielle Dullinger.

"We're planning, we're headed in that direction and we're hopeful," Dullinger said. "At this point, we're doing what we can with the kind of guidelines that we have ... but this doesn't replace the fair."

The chance to have something resembling a traditional event this year may hinge on Minnesota's ability to contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and to vaccinate a sufficient number of people against it.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

"Everything looks to me on the horizon, the way the vaccine is going and the way that the virus is responding, that that should be a pretty close to normal event," Gov. Tim Walz said of the State Fair at a news conference last week.

Dullinger said in a phone interview Tuesday that organizers don't think of the Memorial Day weekend event as test run. The event will help to raise funds for the State Fair itself, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 26 to Sept. 6. Health experts, including those with the Minnesota Department of Health, were consulted for the planning of the kickoff, Dullinger said, and typically advise fair organizers even in nonpandemic years.

"That's very standard procedure for us," she said.

How to get tickets

Tickets for the May preview event will cost $12.50 are good only for specific timeslots, with 10,000 tickets issued per timeslot.

Tickets will be sold through an online lottery system that Minnesotans can register for from now until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, May 6. On Monday, May 8, lottery registrants will be notified by email as to what specific time they can access the web portal where tickets are sold.

An individual can only purchase six tickets at a time, according to the State Fair website, and duplicate lottery registrations will be removed from the system.

Children younger than 4 can get tickets for free.

Fairgoers will have to bring their own face masks to be allowed onto the fairgrounds, but won't have their temperatures checked or need to provide a proof of vaccination in order to be admitted, according to the State Fair website at www.mnstatefair.org/kickoff-to-summer/.