More than 2 million people times a $15 admission fee = a lot of dough, deep fried or not.
The Minnesota State Fair has never been the cheapest way to spend the day. But as prices continue to rise — admission fees have gone up $1 for this year's fair, the fourth hike in the past decade — some readers wonder: Where does the money go?
As Minnesotans geared up for this year's beloved end-of-summer fest, we asked for your questions about the State Fair for our Curious Minnesota series. Some readers had done the math and wanted to know where the cash goes.
"All of it goes back into the fair," said Jerry Hammer, the fair's chief executive. "The better this year's fair goes, the better next year's will be."
Last year's fair did very well. With a record number of visitors, gate and parking sales alone brought in $23 million.
Then there's the $8 million from the Midway and the $4.3 million from the grandstand, as well as money from leasing space on the fairgrounds. In all, the State Fair brought in a record $57.2 million last year.
Of course, a majority of revenue goes to cover the cost of putting on the 12-day festival.
The State Fair has 87 employees who work year round, though a fair spokesperson declined to provide any salary figures. Last year, $2.4 million was spent on administrative costs.
All told, the fair had expenses totaling $48 million, leaving it with a profit of $9.2 million in 2018.
That's used to fund free entertainment at future fairs or grounds improvements like the North End Event Center built this year to host exhibits. Last year's success also paid for the new Minnesota Corn Fairstalk, an art installation celebrating the state's agricultural industry.
The year before, the fair added an open-air pet pavilion, new restrooms and the Hangar.
The State Fair does not receive public funding, Hammer said. Everything is financed by earnings from previous fairs or donations made to the State Fair Foundation, its nonprofit arm.
It has received appropriations, though Hammer said the last time the fair took money from the government was in 1949, when it received a reimbursement payment for allowing the livestock area to be converted into a military aircraft propeller plant during World War II.
The fair is produced by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, delegates from the state's 87 counties as well as representatives from agriculture, horticulture and education associations. The society is described as a "quasi-state agency" because it was organized as a public corporation by the Legislature in 1860, though its roots date to 1854, when the first fair was held and Minnesota was not yet a state.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478