After one year’s pandemic hiatus, it's back to Minnesota State Fair

After one year’s pandemic hiatus, it's back to Minnesota State Fair

Visiting the 2021 Minnesota State Fair? After the 2020 fair was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are eager to visit. With some preplanning, a day at the fair can be an enjoyable experience for people with disabilities. Tickets are on sale now. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/tickets/admission-tickets/

Minnesota State Fair Accessibility Services offers many services for fairgoers with disabilities. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/general-info/accessibility-guide/ or email  accessibility@mnstatefair.org; 651-288-4448

One go-to spot is Care & Assistance, which provides a number of accessibility services. Care & Assistance is located at 1338 Dan Patch Ave., across from West End Market. Hours are 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

New sensory break spot opens

For visitors with sensory processing disabilities, the fair can be too much. One welcomed new feature is the Fraser Sensory building. The new take-a-break oasis is specially created for fair guests of all ages with sensory-processing challenges who may find the sights, sounds, smells and crowds of the fair overwhelming.

Fraser is Minnesota’s largest provider of autism and early childhood mental health services. The Fraser Sensory Building is on Cosgrove Street, between Dan Patch Avenue and Wright Avenue, adjacent to the wheelchair rentals and Home Improvement Building. Fairgoers can visit Fraser from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., August 26 to September 6, closing at 8 p.m. on Labor Day.

The sensory space will be staffed by Fraser-trained sensory support volunteers, who can help individuals regulate with tools and techniques including weighted blankets and shoulder wraps, calming music, floor cushions, an exercise ball and fidget toys. Anyone who is experiencing sensory overload is welcome to take a break in the space.

The Fraser Sensory Building will also feature games, giveaways, educational resources, special guests and information about employment opportunities.

“The fair is a great place for Minnesotans to gather,” said Fraser Sensory Inclusion Specialist and Occupational Therapist Gina Gibson. “However, given the crowds and the stimulation, it can feel overwhelming to some. Those who feel overwhelmed now have a place to get some support and make the fair a positive experience.”.

Mental Health Day at the Fair

An all-ages day to promote mental health awareness is 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, August 30 at Dan Patch Park, presented by the Minnesota State Advisory Council on Mental Health, Subcommittee on Children’s Mental Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota and many other organizations.

Learn about far-reaching mental health and wellness topics that affect all Minnesotans. Learn about mental health resources and wellness through games and activities as well as stage acts including music, youth performances, yoga, and more. Featured guests and entertainment will be offered. Learn more at www.namimn.org or www.mentalhealthmn.org. Or call 651-645-2948.

Check the fair schedule online for other disability group events and exhibits. The schedule was changing as fair time draws near.

Minnesota Council on Disability booth

Several disability service organizations have their own booths in the Education Building. The Minnesota Council on Disability will have a booth there, too. Many organizations partner with the council at the booth and provide free information on disability groups and services

The council’s booth theme this year is “resilience,” acknowledging the always-resilient disability community and its challenges during the pandemic.

A schedule will be posted, of when fairgoers can meet representatives from partner disability organizations including Access Press, state commissioners, elected officials, guest entertainment and an accommodations schedule. Contact the council about accommodations to visit the booth at www.disability.state.mn.us/

Health comes first

In 2021, health and safety of everyone is a top priority. Fair officials continue to follow and monitor current guidance from federal and state health officials.

Restrictions regarding large gatherings have recently eased, so at this time, no attendance limits are anticipated.

Masks will not be required for fair guests but are strongly encouraged for those not fully vaccinated. People may feel comfortable wearing masks even if they have been vaccinated. Proof of vaccination will not be required for guests, staff or vendors.

Cleaning and sanitization measures will adhere to federal and state guidelines. Hand sanitizer will be provided at locations throughout the fairgrounds.

But people need to be mindful of their symptoms. Anyone testing positive or presumptively positive within the 14 days of attending the fair should stay home. Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in direct contact with or in the immediate vicinity of any person who is confirmed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 should stay home.

Be safe and have fun

Before leaving home, make sure phones, wheelchairs and power chairs are fully charged. Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.

Don’t forget to bring needed items, including water and any medications needed during the day. Bring a hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun’s rays. A cooling towel worn around the neck can bring welcome relief from heat. Make sure to bring identification and identification for emergency contacts.

Getting to the fair

It’s easier to park-off-site. The Minnesota State Fair provides a free park and ride lot, with free wheelchair-accessible bus service exclusively for people with disabilities and their companions. The lot, open to those with a disability certificate or license plate, is located on the north side of the Oscar Johnson Arena, 1039 De Courcy Circle, south of the fairgrounds near Snelling Avenue and Energy Park Drive.

Buses run continuously from 8 a.m. to midnight daily (11 p.m. on Labor Day). Passengers are dropped off at the Loop Gate #9 on Como Avenue on the south end of the fairgrounds.

Metro Mobility drops off and picks up passengers at two locations on the fairgrounds: Loop Gate 9 on Como Avenue, and at the North Gate #2.

Rideshare services Uber and Lyft drop off and pick up passengers at two locations on the fairgrounds: Loop Gate 9 on Como Avenue, and at the North Gate #2.

Metro Transit has several bus routes that go to the fairgrounds. Go to  www.mnstatefair.org/transportation/metro-transit/.

Park and ride lots will be scattered throughout the Twin Cities region but be aware that most don’t offer accessible buses, for people who use chairs or scooters, or who cannot climb steps. Those that do offer accessible buses don’t always have them available. The park and ride schedule can be found at www.mnstatefair.org/transportation/

Roseville High School will not be available for park and ride this year.

For taxi and rideshare information, go to www.mnstatefair.org/transportation/

On the fairgrounds, a small number of parking spaces designated for vehicles with a valid disability certificate available on a first-come basis. Please note that accessible parking often fills up early each day. The cost is $16. View website page for a map and more information about how to access on-site parking. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/parking/vehicle/

At the gates

Security changes have been made so be ready. The Minnesota State Fair’s security program includes walk-through metal detectors at all entry gates. Bags, purses, coolers and packages will be subject to search at each of the State Fair’s entrances. Prohibited items include weapons, fireworks, alcoholic beverages, drones and bikes/skateboards/skates/hover boards. Other items may be refused at the discretion of fair management or police.

Leave home any pocket knives, embroidery scissors or similar small items. Downsize what is carried as much as possible.

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive listening devices are available free for use during Grandstand shows. Receivers and headsets are available from the guest services desk on the east side of the Grandstand Plaza. A valid driver’s license or state ID and a credit card are required for deposit.

Large print maps and daily schedules

Large print maps and daily schedules will be available at information booths upon request.

Rental wheelchairs and scooters

HomeTown Mobility rents wheelchairs and electric scooters from five sites within the main entrance gates to the fairgrounds. Wagons and strollers can also be rented. Advance rental reservations are now being accepted by contacting HomeTown Mobility directly. For pricing and contact information, go to https://www.mnstatefair.org/general-info/accessibility-guide/

ASL interpreting services

Through a partnership with the CATIE Center at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, the State Fair offers daily ASL interpreting services provided by teams of certified, novice and student interpreters.

Interpreters are scheduled between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. August 26 – September 6. Special requests for interpreter services will be scheduled depending on availability and should be directed to 651-288-4448 or the Admin Too Building on Cosgrove Street.

ASL interpreting is also available for concerts at the Grandstand and Leinie Lodge Bandshell upon request. Requests should be made at least 14 days prior to the concert. A separate concert ticket is required for Grandstand shows. Shows at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell are free.

Each day, interpretation is offered at six scheduled shows throughout the fairgrounds. Be aware that performances and demonstrations are subject to change.

One change longtime fairgoers will notice is that entertainer Sean Emery, who offered intrepeted shows, has retired. Emery was the longest-tenured entertainer, performing each day at the fair since 1991.

MNHS Presents History On-A-Schtick at Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater, 10 a.m. daily. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/schedule/mnhs-presents-history-on-a-schtick/

Raptor Displays and Flying Demonstration at DNR Garden Stage, 11 a.m. every day except Wednesday, September 1. The Raptor Center at DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage, 11 a.m. Wednesday, September 1. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/location/dnr-building-and-park/

Thank A Farmer at Christensen Farms Stage, 1 p.m. daily. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/schedule/thank-a-farmer-magic-show/

All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash at the North Woods Stage, 2 p.m. daily. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/schedule/all-star-stunt-dogs-splash/

Timberworks Lumberjack Show at the North Woods Stage, 3 p.m. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/schedule/timberworks-lumberjack-show/

Looking Inside the Hive at the Agriculture Horticulture Building, 4:30 p.m. daily. Go to www.mnstatefair.org/schedule/looking-inside-the-hive/

It is hoped that interpretation can be offered for Hmong Minnesota Day at Dan Patch Park on Labor Day, September 6. This hadn’t been confirmed as of Access Press print deadline.

Some 2021 changes are due to the pandemic or operational issues. 3rd Lair SkatePark, EquiMania, Festival of Nations Demonstration Stage, Giant Sing Along, Go Karts, the Great Big Sandbox, Laser Encore’s Laser Hitz Show and the River Raft Ride will not be at the 2021 fair.