(Originally published on Aug. 24)By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Big changes are ahead for the State Fair. Many will start before you even get to the gate.

Esme Murphy sorts out where you can go to get a ride to the fair and why getting through the gate may take a little more patience than usual.

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As vendors get ready, fair goers may want to prepare another way to get to the fairgrounds.

Express Metro Transit buses that carried half a million people to the fair in 2019 are being cut from 10 locations to just three.

The buses cost $5 in advance or $6 as you hop on, and will now leave every half hour from just three cities: Cottage Grove, Bloomington and Minnetonka.

Metro Transit doesn’t have enough drivers for more routes and they did not want to cut regular service.

“Right now we are about 60 operators short of where we need to be,” Metro Transit’s Brian Funk said.

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You still have the option of taking the State Fair’s more than 20 free park and ride buses. The free locations are listed on the fair’s website. All are relatively close to the fairgrounds.

As a result fair attendees should plan on it taking more time to get into the fair.

“It is an industry standard to have metal detectors. We were late adopters of this, just because of the logistics. We have 14 gates,” the State Fair’s Danielle Dullinger said.

State Fair officials say they have no idea what impact these changes or other factors — including COVID and the announcement last week that dozens of vendors have bowed out — will have on attendance.

A reminder: Face coverings are required on all buses headed toward the fairgrounds. And Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health recommended wearing masks, even outside, when at the fair.

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Esme Murphy