The Minnesota State Fair is now flush with bathrooms like never before, including more locations to better accommodate transgender visitors and others with specific needs, ahead of the late-summer food and fun extravaganza that cranks up late next month.
Among the many new attractions and upgrades that fair officials announced Wednesday is the addition near the Kidway on Cooper Street of a 6,540-square-foot restroom, with 49 toilets, split roughly in half by gender, and two drinking fountains.
Also included are 14 new family/unisex restrooms, which offer greater privacy, raising the total to 40 throughout the fairgrounds.
"Anybody can use them," said fair spokeswoman Brienna Schuette, who listed families with babies needing a diaper changed and adults assisting elderly parents as among those most likely to appreciate the additional privacy that family bathrooms provide.
Also, Schuette said, "yes, it would absolutely" benefit visitors who identify themselves as transgender.
Debates about restroom access for transgender individuals have sprung up around the country for many months involving schools and other public buildings. In one case in Virginia, school board members in a public district in Gloucester County are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to bar a transgender teen, who was born female but identifies as male, from using a boy's restroom.
Also new to the fair this year are five "Selfie Spots," which are "the best places on the fairgrounds that we've selected to have iconic images in the background" for photos, Schuette said. Backdrops at these locations include the grandstand and the midway.
Last year, fair officials found themselves dealing with a selfie stick kerfuffle. Falling in line with some of the biggest attractions in the world, the fair imposed restrictions on the retractable cellphone holders, which give photo fanatics a better visual perspective of their whereabouts.
The restrictions, still in place, apply to rides and at live entertainment venues. Potential problems that folks at the fair want to avoid are selfie sticks getting caught in the mechanisms of rides, obstructing views or potentially whacking folks at the grandstand and other venues.