MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Word that Gov. Tim Walz plans to ease some COVID-19 restrictions next week is giving Minnesotans hope for some highly-missed summer fun.

There are 93 county fairs in the state according to the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs (MFCF), despite there only being 87 counties. Ninety-two of them were cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

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So far in 2021, only one has been cancelled. The Ramsey County Fair, typically scheduled for mid-July, won’t happen. Don Merkens is the District 9 Director of the MFCF, covering the northwest corner of the state. He said one of the reasons the fair is cancelled is due to crowd control.

“With no gates, people can just walk in from any direction, and trying to keep the numbers down is almost impossible in that situation,” Merkens said.

He is also the president of the Norman County Fair, which he said will go on as planned, adding that excitement is growing.

“It’s the highlight of the summer,” Merkens said.

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The event will come with restrictions, including fewer carnival rides, spacing out 4-H events and no bands in the beer garden to allow for more social distancing.

“It’s gonna be a few extra hoops to jump through, but in order to do it I just think it has to be done that way,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

Hope is also growing over the Minnesota State Fair. A spokesperson for the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” said the fair will happen, but they’re still waiting on changes in guidelines to determine what it will look like.

Animals, however, are already on the grounds this weekend. The Sahara Sands Spring Classic is an Arabian horse show, which had to cancel in 2020. There will be 160 horses and roughly 300 people there this weekend, according to Laura Nielsen, president of the Sahara Sands Arabian Horse Club. The public isn’t allowed to attend, but that rule wasn’t decided by the fairgrounds. Nielsen said it’s a ruling from the United States Equestrian Federation. Regardless, she feels just getting back in the saddle again is enough.

“We’re all really excited. Everyone’s happy to go,” Nielsen said. “It gives us hope that we’ll be getting back to some sort of normalcy here.”

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A popular state fairgrounds event won’t be there this summer. The Back to the 50’s car show, schedule for mid-June, has been postponed to 2022. Organizers said its due to “insurmountable restrictions” imposed by the state.

Jeff Wagner