The Minnesota State Fair has seen a major rebound in its financial position as 2022 attendance returned to pre-pandemic levels.
An annual report the fair issued last week shows that the 2022 event brought in $65 million in revenue, up 43% from a year earlier. The 2022 fair took in $9.6 million more than costs, compared with roughly $1.5 million in 2021.
Renee Alexander, the fair's new CEO following the retirement of Jerry Hammer, said the improved financial report came as a "relief" after a $16.6 million loss in 2020 when the fair was canceled due to COVID-19 and lower attendance in 2021.
"We were still all dealing with the pandemic [in 2021] so 2022 felt more like a normal year, and it was good for everybody to have our community out and back together," Alexander said. "It felt more like the fair of pre-COVID."
The 2022 fair did not break the 2019 attendance record of 2.1 million, but it was the fifth highest, with more than 1.8 million. The fair had 1.3 million attendance in 2021.
The return to normal socializing conditions as COVID-19 receded between 2021 and 2022 helped lead to higher attendance, Alexander said.
The fair initially reported operating at a loss of $1.3 million in 2021, according to a January news release. But those numbers were before the fair's finances were audited, and the updated figures showed a net gain of $1.5 million, Alexander said.
She said the change had to do with pension liability.
In 2022, nearly half the fair's revenue came from $31.4 million in ticket sales, 22% from sales by vendors who pay a portion of their proceeds to the fair and other fees, and 14% was from the midway and ticketed attractions.
Looking forward to the 2023 fair, which runs Aug. 24 through Sept. 4, Alexander said she's hopeful the positive trajectory continues.
"The markers we're seeing with advanced gate admission and grandstand sales, it feels like it's going to be a really healthy fair," she said.
One-day ticket prices went up for this year's fair by $1, and are now $18 for adults, $16 for those 65 and older and for kids 5 to 12, and free for those 4 and under. In announcing the increase in January, Hammer pointed to rising costs for fair production, public safety, facilities upkeep and other services such as the free park-and-ride system.
Minnesota recently passed into law recreational marijuana use for adults, but organizers have not determined if vendors may sell products containing THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
"We will take the time to analyze and monitor, learning from others around the state, as well as from fairs and events around the country," the statement read. "At the present time, the sale of products containing THC and CBD is not permitted at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair."
Marijuana use and possession will be decriminalized starting Aug. 1, but as of now organizers are not taking a stance on what policies will be in place for the event.
"It's still very early and we're looking at the new laws just like everybody else is right now," Alexander said. "We're not prepared to take a position on that."