Minnesota State Fair

Crowds line the streets during the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

Grab your fanny pack, your comfy walking shoes and be prepared to ditch the silverware for foods served on a stick the last 12 days of summer.

The 2021 Minnesota State Fair is on. The Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which governs the Fair, voted unanimously Friday morning to set the dates for the Fair — Aug. 26 through Sept. 6 — making it official.

Attendance restrictions are not planned, but gate ticket prices will increase by $1.

The vote wasn’t a surprise. Most vendors, exhibitors and fairgoers expected the State Fair to return this summer after the pandemic shut down the annual event in 2020 for the first time since 1945-46. Vaccinations and steadily sliding cases of COVID-19 have reopened plenty of summer events — though many have been modified or restricted.

Even Gov. Tim Walz expected the Fair to happen. During a briefing on coronavirus restrictions in late April, Walz raised hopes when he said the Minnesota State Fair “should be a pretty close to normal event” in 2021.

More evidence before it became official: Tickets are on sale for Grandstand shows that carried over from 2020, including the Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert; the State Fair website counts down the days, hours and minutes until Aug. 26 – Labor Day, Sept. 6, 2021; there were 52,000 tickets sold in a November “flash sale” offering $10 discount admission tickets for the 2021 Fair.

The Fair seemed to be testing the waters when it held a “Kickoff to Summer” over five days around Memorial Day Weekend. Attendance was limited to 10,000 during various time slots each day and tickets were sold through a lottery. The event, May 27-31, sold out.

The Fairgrounds also hosted two sold-out drive-through Fair Food Parades in which people drove a route through the Falcon Heights grounds to purchase favorites. Though not organized by the Minnesota State Fair, the Fairgrounds were also used for drive-through holiday lights and St. Paul Winter Carnival events.

The Minnesota State Fair, which drew 2 million people in 2019, had annual revenue of $60 million that year but, of course, no revenue in 2020. The State Fair independently finances its operation and receives no state appropriations.