As a longtime reader, and funder, of the Access Press, and as the parent of a daughter with disabilities, I cannot let pass the one-sided condemnation of the Minnesota State Fair, by the Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD), that you gave voice to on the front page of your September, 2021 issue. Let me offer a counterpoint.
My daughter and I attended this year’s fair four times, first with some trepidation, but with increasing joy as we realized that this year’s fair, contrary to all the condemners, was going to be, because of the very noticeable lack of crowds, the best fair we have ever attended for disabled peoples’ safety and ease of accessibility. People in wheelchairs, my daughter’s mother being one of them, had easy access almost everywhere, including the grandstand booths (usually impossible for wheelchairs), zero lines at most food vendors (Sweet Martha’s Cookies excepted), and many, almost empty bathrooms.
We all felt our visits to be COVID safe, just avoid the few crowded places(entrance to the Midway), and wear masks for short visits in buildings with almost no visitors, including four visits to the almost deserted Education Building. My daughter especially likes to go there because of all the free give-aways; she made a haul this year. I strongly feel that almost all fair attendees I saw were doing a good job of social distancing, and keeping themselves safe. There were a few crowded places, yes, but they were easy to avoid. What the MCD fails to recognize is that people can learn, and have learned in the last e18 months, how to stay COVID safe and still have some fun; even disabled people, of whom we saw many at the Fair.
I think the State Fair people deserve kudos for bringing back so much needed joy to so many people, and providing the means for each of us to do it safely(it would have been impossible, as they said, to enforce a mask mandate; a mandate which, in my view, was totally unnecessary). I can’t help but feel all the naysayers didn’t even bother to go for a look-see, kind of like criticizing a book not read.
To be fair (pun in tended), I do agree with MCD on the need for attendance caps — record setting crowds wouldn’t have been nearly as safe, and are a nightmare for many handicapped people. The fair’s mania for record setting attendance year after year needs to be checked somehow.
James P. Gerlich