Scene at the fair

COVID at the fair: A year like no other

Tens of thousands of fairgoers attended the Minnesota State Fair as the COVID-19 Delta variant surged in 2021. With no mask mandate or attendance limitations, the Great Minnesota Get Together went forward as Minnesotans sought a sense of normalcy.
Dressed as the COVID-19 virus, Arabelle Rohs, of Sherburne County, stood with her llama, “Sherlock,” dressed as a doctor, before the start of the 4H Llama Costume Contest as she was photographed by onlookers at the Minnesota State Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. “I’m surprised that not more people are wearing masks. I thought they would be,” said Rohs of the fair this year. “I don’t think I’d be here if I wasn’t showing, just because of the amount of people.” Rohs says that she had the idea of dressing as COVID after learning that llamas have natural antibodies to the virus. 
68th Princess Kay of the Milky Way Anna Euerle, right, and finalist Jessica Ohmann, left, spoke masked to a fairgoer in the Dairy Barn at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
A cloth face mask left behind near the Big Great Wheel at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Friends Gina Manthey and Catherine Puckett, left and right, both of Bloomington, stood for a portrait near the Grandstand at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. “I’m comfortable to an extent,” said Puckett, daughter of Twins legend Kirby Puckett. “I want to eat as fast as possible and put my mask back on.” Puckett says she wishes there was a mask mandate at the fair and that she left her 2-year old daughter at home because she didn’t want her to be exposed. “It’s great to see everyone out here, but it’s scary.” Manthey says she lost a close friend to the virus, who didn’t take it seriously enough. She also wishes there were more people masked but with smaller crowds, the risk is acceptable. “It feels a little different —there’s a lot less people, it’s noticeable.”
People, mostly unmasked, walked along Judson Avenue at the Minnesota State Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
“You can wear a mask, it’s a choice. I’m wearing a mask,” said Bob Bushard, of St. Paul, as he walked around near gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen’s booth at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. “I think it’s the flu — I’ve had the flu, I’m not afraid of this,” Bushard said of Covid. “I don’t think it’s as bad as people think it is — I think it’s there to scare the hell out of people and make us socialist (sic) distancing so we can’t communicate.” “If I get sick and die, that’s what happens.” Bushard says he wishes there were more people at the fair. “It’s ridiculous that I can actually walk around without stumbling because I’m not on top of people.”
Faith Vang, from East St. Paul kissed her boyfriend Jayson Sanchez, of Richfield, as they waited to ride the Sky Flyer at the Minnesota State Fair’s Mighty Midway on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The two both work at hospitals and are playing it safe by wearing masks at the fair this year. Vang says she had a couple relatives get sick and a few distant relatives die from COVID infections. “It’s very unfortunate.” She says most of her family is now vaccinated. Sanchez says he and Vang are some of the fortunate ones who have kept their jobs and stayed healthy during the pandemic. On masking, Sanchez says that he “hopes that what we do is enough to keep everyone safe.” The two have been together for four months. “It’s been a great summer,” said Vang.
Julieta Garcia, of Minneapolis, took a ride with her 3-year-old cousin, Mia, down the giant slide at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. “I’m surprised and not surprised” that most people aren’t wearing masks said Garcia. She says she lost a family member in Mexico to COVID-19, and despite being vaccinated, she’s playing it safe with her younger family members. Garcia says she works in retail and that things have been stable and busy for her this past year.
68th Princess Kay of the Milky Way Anna Euerle stood with her milking short horn, Christianna, in the dairy barn at the Minnesota State Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. “My immediate family was able to avoid it [COVID]. Dairy farmers don’t have the opportunity to do a lot of travel,” said Euerle, who lives in Litchfield, Minn. Euerle says her grandparents, who are 100 and 92, both contracted COVID-19 and are thankful to have come out ok.
Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist Alaina Johnson wore a mask as she had her butter sculpture carved by Gerry Kulzer in the Dairy Building at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Vince and Shelly Lacher stood for a portrait with their children, front row from left, twins Liam and Ava, 12, Kasper, 10, and Lana, 13, back right, at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Vince lost his 78-year old mother in South Dakota to COVID in mid-December. “She was staying safe, she stayed away from people, she wore a mask.” The Lachers aren’t sure how she caught it. They say she kept a journal and that she passed away about a month after writing about a persistent cough that wouldn’t go away. The Lachers take COVID seriously. The older three of their children are fully vaccinated now but they’re still masking. One of their neighbors recently had a breakthrough infection. Vince says despite Delta, they don’t feel too uncomfortable at the fair this year. The crowds are “really kind of sparse…if it was like in years past where you can’t see the road because there’s so many people, it would be another story.”
Some buildings had signs encouraging fairgoers to wear masks, including the Dairy Building at the Minnesota State Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.
James Cleet, of St. Paul, patted an 11-day-old sheep held by University of Minnesota veterinary student Maggie King in the Miracle of Birth Center at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. Cleet says his uncle passed away over the weekend from a COVID-19 infection, but that he doesn’t feel too uncomfortable at the fair since he’s masking and vaccinated. “It’s just another precaution… people are going to make decisions based on their situations and health.”
Masked fairgoers took a ride on the SkyGlider at the state fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Fairgoers walked near the Great Big Wheel as the daily parade at the Minnesota State Fair took place behind them on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
A familiar scene at the Mighty Midway of the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.