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Minnesota State Fair canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Officials canceled the Minnesota State Fair on Friday after its leader said the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for the show to go on.

“We all love the fair. And that’s exactly why we can’t have a fair this year,” General Manager Jerry Hammer told the fair’s governing board shortly before the unanimous vote.

The cancellation came as state health officials reported 33 deaths from the coronavirus, up one from a day earlier and a new high, along with 813 newly confirmed cases. Minnesota has now had 842 deaths and 19,005 confirmed cases. The number of people hospitalized edged downward slightly to 534, but the number in intensive care rose from 229 to a new daily high of 233.

Even if it weren’t for the health considerations, he explained, all state fairs depend on huge networks of exhibitors, agriculturalists, volunteers, sponsors, ride operators and entertainers. But many major entertainers have already canceled tours for the summer, he said, and most agricultural exhibitors are now saying they might not come.

“This is the time of year when things need to really take off, and we can’t do it,” he said. “There’s just not time. … If there was to somehow be a fair, it wouldn’t look like a normal fair at all.”

The “Great Minnesota Get-Together” is one of the most popular state fairs in the U.S. A record 2.1 million people packed the fairgrounds in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights last year to eat foods on a stick, view farm animals exhibited by young people, enjoy thrill rides and see major stars perform at the Grandstand.

While some fair fans had argued that it should be held for healthy people willing to take the risks, Hammer said a significant number of visitors have health risks that make them particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. If the fair can’t be held for everyone, he said, it shouldn’t be held at all.

This is the sixth time the Minnesota State Fair has been canceled since it was founded in 1859. The last was in 1946 due to a polio epidemic, one year after it was called off in 1945 due to World War II fuel restrictions. It was also canceled in 1861 due to the Civil Warm in 1862 due to the

U.S.-Dakota War, and in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the world’s fair in Chicago.

“This about playing the long game.” Hammer said. “This is about the future of the fair. This isn’t about doing something now. This isn’t about risking everything on a bad bet. This is about doing the right thing for the future of the fair. We’ve been here before.”

This year’s edition was scheduled to run scheduled from Aug. 27 through Labor Day, Sept. 7. Next year’s has already been set for Aug. 26 through Labor Day, Sept. 6, of 2021. Hammer has dubbed it “The Great Minnesota Get-Back-Together.”

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