By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After a year off, it was a guessing game as to what kind of turn-out you’d see for the first day of the Minnesota State Fair.

One thing was certain, those who came out on opening day were thrilled to be back.

READ MORE: Crowd Removed With Chemical Spray As MN State Fair Closed

The first fair-goers went through the gates early this morning. One big change is everyone now has to pass through metal detectors to enter.

It was like a long-awaited family reunion between complete strangers.

“I’m so excited, let’s just get back into life!” said one visitor.

Some of the north parking lots filled up fast, but others had plenty of space throughout the day. Overall, it was typical fair traffic. Afternoon rain played a role in smaller crowds.

When the weather was dry, it was like some things never changed. Food stands and the Kidway were as busy as ever. Everybody seemed to have something they wanted to see.

During the Great Minnesota Get-Together, masks are not required but are encouraged by fair organizers — especially indoors or outside in a crowded setting.

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

“It was a good opportunity to express that safety and that high regard that I have for everybody who comes here,” said a visitor wearing a mask.

“I feel pretty good. People keeping a distance. Not too crowded. We came early just for that purpose. We came early so it doesn’t feel too crowded. We feel really good,” said visitor Michael Davis.

Some of the old fair strategies still hold true. Every year the Humble family from Rochester gets to the Fair early to win as many stuffed animals as they possibly can. And every year, it works.

“We won the big ones on skee ball and then we won a bunch of the smaller ones on the water shooting games,” said Vicky Humble.

It took them about two hours to win about 20 stuffed animals. There’s a reason why they do that: the Humbles give all those stuffed animals to Toys for Tots.

Lightning evacuated the Grandstand ahead of Miranda Lambert’s Thursday night performance, with concertgoers finally reseated just before 10 p.m.

The fair also shut down the Mighty Midway, Kidway and other attractions for the night, and the weather forced organizers to cancel shows on free entertainment stages.

MORE NEWS: Strong Finish To Unusual 2021 Minnesota State Fair, Despite Big Decline In Turnout

John Lauritsen