Early Fair
1887-1946: The fair has been canceled five times, all before 1947.
The 1861-62 State Fairs were canceled because of the Civil War and Dakota Conflict. In 1893, it was nixed again to avoid conflict with the Chicago World’s Fair.
Attendance was near a low point around the turn of the century. But in 1899, electricity came to the fair, allowing festivities to continue into the night for the first time. Attendance boomed.
After a peak in 1941, attendance plummeted as soldiers left to fight in WWII. A wartime fuel shortage canceled the 1945 fair. The next year, the polio epidemic forced another closure.
1.5m
1m
500k
1915: Ye Old Mill
makes its fair debut.
1887
1946
2018
Heyday growth
1947-1982: When the fair returned, there were twice as many fairgoers.
Butter sculptors ‘round the world rejoiced as Princess Kay of the Milky Way was crowned for the first time in 1954, a nod to dairy farming and pageantry.
Fair officials were overjoyed in 1955 with the passing of the “long dreamed of, all-time record shattering one milllion mark.” The millionth fairgoer was gifted a wristwatch and a silver trophy.
After hitting another new record in 1974, fair officials expanded to 12 days, but attendance dropped to its lowest in years. It wouldn’t return to that record level until the late ‘80s.
1.5m
1969: The Giant
Slide delights
riders for the first
time. It turns 50
this year.
1m
500k
1947
1982
2018
1887
Push to 2 million
1983-2018: New features and new foods feed a fresh fair generation.
In a period of steadily climbing attendance, 1988 marked the sixth consecutive year of growth, with ticket sales up 22% since 1982.
Now a favorite fair stop for cuteness overload, the Miracle of Birth Center made its entry into the world in 2001. An estimated 4,000 people an hour made their way through the barn that first year.
Despite several rainy days, attendance passed the 2 million mark in 2018. Minnesotans call that “a little crowded.” With State Fair hype at an all-time high, it can’t be long before we hit another milestone.
1.5m
2014: Instagram-worthy
food options explode with
the West End development.
1m
500k
1887
2018
1983
Early Fair
1887-1946: The fair has been canceled five times, all before 1947.
The 1861-62 State Fairs were canceled because of the Civil War and Dakota Conflict. In 1893, it was nixed again to avoid conflict with the Chicago World’s Fair.
Attendance was near a low point around the turn of the century. But in 1899, electricity came to the fair, allowing festivities to continue into the night for the first time. Attendance boomed.
After a peak in 1941, fair attendance plummeted as soldiers left to fight in WWII. A wartime fuel shortage canceled the 1945 fair. The next year, the polio epidemic forced another closure.
1.5m
1m
500k
1915: Ye Old Mill
makes its fair debut.
1887
1946
2018
Heyday growth
1947-1982: When the fair returned, there were twice as many fairgoers.
Butter sculptors ‘round the world rejoiced as Princess Kay of the Milky Way was crowned for the first time in 1954, a nod to dairy farming and pageantry.
Fair officials were overjoyed in 1955 with the passing of the “long dreamed of, all-time record shattering one milllion mark.” The millionth fairgoer was gifted a wristwatch and a silver trophy.
After hitting another new record in 1974, fair officials expanded to 12 days, but attendance dropped to its lowest in years. It wouldn’t return to record levels for a decade.
1.5m
1m
1969: The Giant
Slide delights
riders for the first
time. It turns 50
this year.
500k
1887
1947
1982
2018
Push to 2 million
1983-2018: New features and new foods feed a fresh fair generation.
1.5m
In a period of steadily climbing attendance, 1988 marked the sixth consecutive year of growth, with ticket sales up 22% since 1982.
Now a favorite fair stop for cuteness overload, the Miracle of Birth Center made its entry into the world in 2001. An estimated 4,000 people every hour made their way through the barn that first year.
Despite several rainy days, attendance passed the 2 million mark in 2018. Minnesotans call that “a little crowded.” With State Fair hype at an all-time high, it can’t be long before we hit another milestone.
2014:
Instagrammable
food options
explode with the
West End
development.
1m
500k
1887
1983
2018
Early Fair
1887-1946: The fair has been canceled five times, all before 1947.
The 1861-62 State Fairs were canceled because of the Civil War and Dakota Conflict. In 1893, it was nixed again to avoid conflict with the Chicago World’s Fair.
Attendance was near a low point around the turn of the century. But in 1899, electricity came to the fair, allowing festivities to continue into the night for the first time. Attendance boomed.
After a peak in 1941, attendance plummeted as soldiers left to fight in WWII. A wartime fuel shortage canceled the 1945 fair. The next year, the polio epidemic forced another closure.
500k
1915: Ye Old Mill
makes its fair debut.
1887
1946
2018
Heyday growth
1947-1982: When the fair returned, there were twice as many fairgoers.
Butter sculptors ‘round the world rejoiced as Princess Kay of the Milky Way was crowned for the first time in 1954, a nod to dairy farming and pageantry.
Fair officials were overjoyed in 1955 with “the reaching — and the passing — of the long dreamed of, all-time record shattering one milllion mark.” The millionth fairgoer was gifted a wristwatch and a silver trophy.
1.5m
1969: The Giant
Slide delights riders
for the first time.
It turns 50 this year.
1m
500k
After hitting another new record in 1974, fair officials expanded to 12 days, but attendance dropped again. It wouldn’t return to record levels until the late ‘80s.
1982
1947
1887
2018
Push to 2 million
1983-2018: New features and new foods feed a fresh fair generation.
In a period of steadily climbing attendance, 1988 marked the sixth consecutive year of growth, with ticket sales up 22% since ‘82.
Now a favorite fair stop for cuteness overload, the Miracle of Birth Center made its entry into the world in 2001. An estimated 4,000 people every hour made their way through the barn that first year.
Despite several rainy days, attendance passed the 2 million mark in 2018. Minnesotans call that “a little crowded.” With State Fair hype at an all-time high, it can’t be long before we hit another milestone.
2014: Food
options and
Instagram
posts explode
with the new
West End.
500k
1983
1887
2018

Notes on the data: Though the State Fair began in 1859, attendance figures weren't consistently recorded before 1887 and the location changed frequently. According to Minnesota State Fair general manager Jerry Hammer, Fair officials revised how attendance was counted in the 1980s to only include tickets at the gate. Attendance recorded in earlier years was then revised to an estimate that removed cars, young children who entered for free and Fair employees, which were previously included in the count. Figures charted represent State Fair attendance reported at the time, not the later revisions.

Source: Minnesota State Fair archives