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After the Minnesota State Fair was officially canceled on May 22 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dismay was widespread across social media. As the largest state fair in the United States by daily attendance, the Minnesota State Fair draws more than 2 million people for two weeks in late August and early September; they descend on the 322-acre fairgrounds in Falcon Heights for butter sculpting, livestock shows, talent contests, stand-up comedy, art exhibits, rides, and Instagram-friendly foods. Great news for fans of the Great Minnesota Get-Together: The fair is back on—sorta.
On July 22, fair officials announced that they would be hosting the first-ever, drive-through Minnesota State Fair Food Parade during August 20–23, 27–30, and September 3–7. Running on a one-way, 1.5-mile route through the fairgrounds by 16 vendors, the “multi-hour experience” will also include entertainment, a trivia contest, and activities along the way, including sightings of State Fair mascots Fairchild and Fairborne, gophers wearing striped jackets and top hats.
A limited number of tickets will be sold, with each vehicle ticket costing $20. (This entrance fee covers up to five people in a vehicle; children under the age of four are not counted.) Tickets for the event go on sale July 31, and proceeds will support Minnesota State Fair operations.
According to officials, guests will not be permitted to leave their vehicles on the parade route, except to use limited public portable toilets. After the last stop, however, there is the option to stop in a parking lot to eat, with the request that visitors make sure to maintain social distancing if they exit their car. And while there are far fewer vendors than in years past, some of the foods offered will be familiar fair favorites: turkey legs, cotton candy, caramel apples, snow cones, cheese curds, a giant egg roll on a stick, Pronto Pups, Jamaican patties, walleye fries, tacos, fried Oreos, funnel cake, and the Tater Twister—a sausage wrapped in a whole spiral-sliced potato and fried. Sweet Martha’s Cookies will also be available, as usual, by the pail. (The full food menu lists which vendors take cash and/or credit cards.)
Held annually since 1859, the Minnesota State Fair has been canceled in years past—because of the Civil War in 1861 and a polio outbreak in 1946, among other reasons—but the drive-through State Fair Food Parade is a novelty. To pull it off, fair organizers are adhering to Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 guidelines: All State Fair staff will wear masks, and those working concession stands will wear masks and gloves. All interactions will be conducted via car window, and the fair is asking visitors placing and paying for orders to bring their own pens and to wear masks. Now, will someone please save us some cheese curds?