State Fair officials confirmed Tuesday that there was more getting together at the Great Minnesota Get-Together than ever before, with attendance for the 12 days coming in just shy of 2 million.
Fed by three record days this year, the fair’s final attendance tally at the close of business Monday night was 1,997,320. That easily topped the previous record of 1,943,719 set just last year.
“With weird things going on outside these gates,” fair spokeswoman Danielle Dullinger said, giving a nod to all the societal uncertainty both nationally and globally throughout this year, “[visitors] were able to leave all those worries aside.”
She added that, with attendance so close to 2 million, next year has a solid shot of snagging another attendance blue ribbon.
“I would say so, yeah,” Dullinger said. “But for us, breaking attendance records is not necessarily the goal. The mark of a successful fair is that people came and enjoyed themselves ... and tried new things.”
And don’t even think about the fair growing beyond its one dozen days, Dullinger cautioned.
“People would certainly love that,” she said, “but for our group of vendors [who work various state fairs], the Iowa State Fair ends right before ours, and Wisconsin’s right before that. We’d lose a lot of great vendors, and we need to cater to our vendors as well as our fair guests.”
In real terms, there actually were more than 2 million visits made to the fair this year, Dullinger said. Guests under 5 years old don’t pay to get in, and only paid admissions are counted in the attendance figures.
The 158th fair, which centered on food, music, rides, agriculture and seemingly all things Minnesotan, benefited from ideal weather conditions most days as well as strong grandstand acts such as Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp, Usher, Toby Keith and Jim Gaffigan.
Total grandstand attendance was 120,383, a record supplanting last year’s 111,319. Selling out this year were Mellencamp, with special guest Carlene Carter; Pentatonix, with special guest Us The Duo; and Sam Hunt, with special guests LANCO and Ryan Follese.
Also a new attraction this year proved particularly popular with visitors. The 15-story-high Great Big Wheel, promoted as the tallest traveling Ferris wheel in North America, totaled 124,958 rides.
“People loved that wheel,” Dullinger said Monday as anticipation was building that 2017 would be the most popular Great Minnesota Get-Together yet. “We heard nothing but great reviews about that.”
Single-day attendance marks were set on Aug. 28 (day 5, 144,504 visitors), Sept. 1 (day 9, 187,066) and Sept. 3 (day 11, 242,759). The most popular day at this year’s fair year was Sept. 2, which drew 254,431 people.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482