By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether it’s the food, the Mighty Midway, or the farm animals, familiar sights will fill the Minnesota State Fairgrounds beginning Thursday — but here’s a reminder of what’s changed.

Likely the first big difference fairgoers will notice are the metal detectors at the entrances. When you arrive, you’ll walk through a set of detectors with your bag. If you don’t set them off, you’re free to enter. But if you do, you step aside for a secondary screening where the detectors will determine if it’s something on you or in your bag, and a search can follow.

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As you weave your way across the grounds, a certain request is made before entering buildings. Masks are not required at the state fair, but they are strongly encouraged, especially when you are indoors or if you’re outside in a crowded setting and you’re not vaccinated.

The DNR buildings will be closed, all of its activities will be outside, and the staff will be masked, according to education coordinator Dawn Bahajak.

(credit: CBS)

“Due to COVID, we wanted to keep our staff and visitors safe,” Bahajak said.

Getting to the state fair might be a little different than usual. There are still more than 20 free park-and-ride locations not far from the fairgrounds. But if you’re used to taking the express Metro Transit shuttle, just know instead of 10 locations, there’s only three this year.

READ MORE: Minnesota State Fair 2021 Final Attendance: 1.3M, Far Below 2019 Record

The changes, plus the concerns regarding COVID-19, could lead to smaller crowds.

“It’s really hard to say. I think it will be busy,” Bahajak said. “People love the state fair. It’s a family tradition.”

But vendors like Michael Wentzien of Galaxy of Drinks remain confident their booths will stay busy.

“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand. Everybody in Minnesota loves the Minnesota State Fair, so I hope a lot of people come out, give it a try. I think it’ll be a good environment,” Wentzien said.

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Another reminder: You can bring food and drinks into the fair with you. Alcohol, however, is not allowed.

Jeff Wagner