MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From deep fried to something-on-a-stick, the Minnesota State Fair had foods of all types. So when pandemic brought the fair’s 2020 cancellation, food junkies were in a quandary.

“My God, this is the State Fair. I mean, we want to come to the State Fair; I do and I want everybody to come, and everybody does,” Shannon Carson said.

Instead, fans like Carson pinned their hopes on the second best option, a 13-day drive-thru “food parade,” featuring 16 of the annual fair’s most popular food vendors.

“It’s just a special tradition for us,” Allison Steinke said.

That’s why Steinke was online early Friday morning, hoping to score some tickets.

Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m., but the website frequently didn’t appear to work. State Fair officials said they experienced an extremely high volume of people trying to get tickets.

“It took my sister and dad and myself all working together to refresh that page, and with a few different browsers, ultimately 22 minutes into my shopping cart,” Steinke said.

Others weren’t so lucky. Shortly before 1 p.m., tickets were sold out.

“Our website and ticketing service experience unprecedented volume; in 2 1/2 hours, we reached our capacity of 19,000 vehicle tickets sold for this 13-day historic event,” fair officials said, in a statement. “The capacity is limited in order to present the event in a safe and enjoyable manner…and we regret that we cannot accommodate more fair fans.”

Hundreds of people posted on social media Friday, saying they weren’t ever able to access the fair’s website. Several urged the fair to add more dates to the food parade. Some were concerned about ticket scalpers. Indeed, a search of Craigslist shortly after 1 p.m. showed several people selling food parade tickets for as much as $120 — six times the initial cost.

For Steinke, a recent breast cancer survivor, it’s going to be a special way to celebrate.

“We love it, everything about it. It brings the state together and it’s a place you can eat as much as you want and not feel guilty about it,” she said.

That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.

Fair officials first announced the food parade last week. The event is slated to take place at the fairgrounds and feature sixteen vendors, including favorites such as Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar, Mouth Trap Cheese Curds and Tom Thumb donuts. Officials said it would be a “multi-hour” experience.

Tickets for the parade went at $20 a car. Vendor food costs extra.

The Minnesota State Fair was canceled in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Friday’s statement, fair officials said they look forward to bringing the full fair experience back next summer.

Bill Hudson

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