State Fair packed with crowds, drama

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 4, 2012 - 8:26 AM

2012 attendance was within reach of the record set in 2009. Officials had to cope with an unsettling crime, ride hiccups.

It's a wrap.

After 12 days of festivities that included a little bit of rain, a little bit of heat and a whole bunch of new food, another Minnesota State Fair came to a close Monday.

Families have been drawn to the fair since 1855, before Minnesota was a state. It now ranks as the second-largest state fair in the country, behind Texas.

While final attendance figures won't be available until Tuesday, crowds were up slightly from last year heading into Labor Day, according to fair officials. Through Sunday, more than 1,635,752 tickets had been sold. The record, 1,790,497, was set in 2009.

Weatherwise, fair fans considered it a fine top-off for summer. Opening weekend brought showers, but the rain stayed away for the rest of the run. For the second year in a row, above-90 temps flared on Senior Day, the discount day for the 65-and-older crowd. To help with the heat, the fair set out misting fans in three locations and handed out free ice-soaked hankies.

At least three cases of swine flu were reported, but they weren't the new strain that triggered concern in recent weeks. And once the electrical and mechanical problems were resolved with the Stratosphere, the fair's premier ride at the front of the midway, it was nothing but lines, said Brienna Schuette, a spokeswoman for the State Fair.

Despite a high-profile stabbing of two men (whose injuries were not life-threatening), police calls were about on par with last year. As of Friday, there were 439 police reports logged; about half were for medical reasons.

Ah, but the food. Vendors dreamed up 40 new food offerings this year. New entrants included two eggplant dishes and gluten-free hot dog buns as well as a more comfort-driven offering from Duke's Poutine -- French fries topped with gravy and squeaky white cheddar cheese curds.

More than 1,100 people put in ballots for the first people's choice awards. In the past, the fair's Board of Managers did the choosing.

Among the fan favorites: Turkey To Go, All-You-Can-Drink Milk, Giggles' Campfire Grill and the giant slide.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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