Big weekend propels State Fair to all-time attendance record

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 10:17 PM

Fine weather, improving economy among factors fueling turnout.

As anticipated, Minnesotans got together at the Great Minnesota Get-Together like never before.

The final attendance tally for the 12 days of the 2014 Minnesota State Fair was 1,824,830, fair officials announced Tuesday.

That tops the previous record of 1,790,497, set in 2009.

Monday’s attendance on the last day of this year’s fair was 159,430. That was well above the 125,097 needed to match the 2009 total.

Several factors played into this year’s robust turnout: agreeable weather, an improving economy, the West End Market dining and entertainment complex that replaced Heritage Square, and a transit hub with connections to the new Green Line light-rail line.

There also were three sold-out shows at the grandstand this year — Toby Keith with Colt Ford, Kid Rock with Blackberry Smoke and Tim McGraw with Ryan Kinder.

Other popular attractions this year included an appearance by four new Timberwolves basketball players and a Military Appreciation Day parade, both on Aug. 26.

Asked whether there is a fair some year soon when attendance will top 2 million, spokeswoman Brienna Schuette said, “We can sure hope. All I know is there’s not a fair in the world with more a more loyal group of patrons. We’re very lucky here in Minnesota.”

This year’s fair set two one-day attendance marks — on Aug. 26, a Day 6 record of 133,595, and on Saturday, a single-day record of 252,092 for any day at the fair.

The record was set despite an increasing number of school districts opting to start classes during the week leading up to Labor Day. Nearly 40 districts and more than a third of the state’s 150 charter schools started beforehand. Fair officials have expressed concern over the years that schools starting while the fair was going on would cut into attendance.

Daily attendance figures are not an exact nose count. They are determined by weighing most tickets in a special “weigh room,” then using that figure to calculate the number of tickets collected, she said. A hand count would take too long, Schuette said.

“We don’t weigh all the tickets, because we’re now scanning tickets at the West End gate, which generates an electronic number that we add into the weighed number.” Schuette said.

Not included in attendance figures are visitors under age 5, who are admitted free, she added.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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