MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State Fair will soon close its gates on the 2017 season. This final day also marks the end of a long career for one fair officer.
To most people, a never-ending line of handshakes and hellos may seem out of the ordinary. For retiring Minnesota State Fair Police Chief Art Blakey, it is just an average day on the job and part of the to-do list.
“There’s so many people I’ve met. People I don’t even know saying ‘Thank you,'” Blakey said.
This year, those well wishes have extra meaning. Retirement finally called at the age of 82.
“It just kind of crept up on me,” Blakey said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. I don’t think it will until 10 to 11 when I watch people to tear down. It’ll hit me then.”
Blakey served as chief for 38 years and another 10 as an officer before his promotion. During that time, he saw the fair undergo historic growth. When he started as a State Fair officer, Blakey was one of just 25 officers. He now oversees a staff of 350.
“We have officers from 70 different law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Some of those officers got their first law enforcement gig under his watch. Former WCCO reporter Former WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe took time off during the summer to be work for the Minnesota State Fair Police Department.
“They thought he was crazy, they thought I was going to do an I-Team on him. I just didn’t want to screw up,” Lowe said.
“I’ve always been able to lend a hand, if possible, and help people through their careers,” Blakey said.
For one officer, that mentorship had extra meaning. Eight years ago, Brooke Blakey started following in her father’s footsteps by joining the State Fair police force.
“Working next to my dad is just one of those things, not many people in the world can say they’ve done that,” Brooke Blakey said. “There’s some big shoes to fill.”
Art Blakey said she doesn’t get any special treatment, and is a hard worker.
In the final stretch of Chief Blakey’s 12-day farewell tour, father and daughter can’t help but think of the future.
“It’s just been a wonderful run,” she said. “Next year he’ll still be here. He’ll just be sitting on the bench telling stories about how he used to do it and reminding us of how things should continue to be.”
Art Blakey plans to travel with his wife in his retirement. St. Paul Sgt. Paul Paulos will become the next State Fair police chief.