New attractions at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair, including the West End Market, are designed with accessibility in mind. Getting to the Great Minnesota Get-Together will also be easier this year, with accessible express buses and an additional Metro Mobility stop. This year’s fair starts Thursday, August 21 and ends on Labor Day, Monday, September 1.
One big change visitors will notice is that the longtime Heritage Square attraction is gone. In its place are a new transit center, new West End Market attractions including restaurants and shops, and a new Minnesota State Fair History and Heritage Center. The new center showcases the history and heart of the fair for all of its past decades. While visitors enjoyed Heritage Square and its shops and old-time exhibits, the area’s steep slopes were often challenging, said fair spokesperson Brienna Schutte.
“What had been Heritage Square is now level with Dan Patch Avenue,” Schutte said. Heritage Square had just one ramp access point. Otherwise, visitors had to go around to the back of the exhibit to enter.
The Center replaces the smaller, cramped old railroad cars that people with mobility limitations could not visit. Developed in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota State Fair Foundation, the center reflects the progression of change in society’s views as has always been the intent of the state fair. Exhibits bring to life the significant events, intriguing stories and inspiring traditions that have laid the foundation for the present-day Great Minnesota Get-Together. Visiting the center is free with fair admission.
“The new history displays were designed with accessibility in mind,” Schuette said. People using wheelchairs and scooters will be able to easily see what is on display.
One longtime Heritage Square attraction, the Minnesota Newspaper Museum, has found a new home on the other side of the fairgrounds, in the 4-H Building. Volunteers publish a newspaper, which recently featured Access Press.
Other new attractions include the new University of Minnesota Driven to Discover building, an expanded
Eco Experience, the Extreme Canines stunt dogs show, and a Military Appreciation Day with a salute to service members’ children.
Getting to the fair will be easier, with accessible express buses to the new transit center. People who use Metro Mobility to get to the Great Minnesota Get-Together will also notice changes this year. Metro Mobility users will be able to use Loop Gate 9 off of Como Avenue as well as Gate 2 off of Hoyt Avenue. The Hoyt Avenue gate is the new addition. The Como Gate is the suggested gate to drop off fair visitors who have physical disabilities.
Metro Transit provides numerous wheelchair accessible options to the Minnesota State Fair through regular route buses. Call 6122-373-3333 or visit www.metrotransit.org
American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are available to assist guests from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Inquire about this free service by call 651-288-4448 or stop at the Administration building located on Cosgrove Street. ASL interpretation is provided daily at the Timberjacks Lumberjack Show at noon at the North Woods Exhibit on Cooper Street between Randall and Lee avenues, and the Sean Emery Show on the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park.
Wheelchair battery recharging is available at the Care and Assistance Center at 1883 Dan Patch Ave.
Outlets to plug in scooters are also available on the south wall of the Grandstand Building.
An Attraction Access Guide is available to assist fairgoers in making choices about which rides are appropriate for them, at all ticket outlets on the Mighty Midway and Kidway. While entertainment venues have accessible seating, it is available on a first-come basis.
Wheelchair/scooter rentals are also available. HomeTown Mobility, an independent concession, provides manual wheelchairs and electric scooters for rent at four locations on the fairgrounds. If rented onsite, all equipment is available on a first-come basis with no guarantee of availability. HomeTown Mobility is now accepting reservations for wheelchairs or electric scooters. Reservations will only be accepted for full day rental. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance. Cancellation must be made 48 hours in advance to receive a full refund, less a $5 cancellation fee per rental unit. At the Fairgrounds concessions hours are 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily. The deposit of a driver’s license or state ID is required.
Costs range from $15 per day for a wheelchair to $55 per day for an electric scooter, cash, credit cards and debit cards are accepted. The HomeTown Mobility’s office is 877-928-5388, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, on weekends during the fair.
The fair provides a free park and ride lot with free wheelchair-accessible bus service for people with disabilities and their companions. The lot is located on the north side, backside of the Oscar Johnson Arena, 1039 De Courcy Circle, south of the fairgrounds. Exit from Snelling Avenue at Energy Park Drive and travel east to the first left past Snelling Avenue. Go east of Merrill Corporation offices to the north side of the ice area. Ride nonstop to the fair and get dropped off at the Como Loop Gate. Buses run continuously, approximately every 20 minutes, from 8 a.m. to midnight daily. Some outlying park and ride lots have limited wheelchair accessible buses. Check the state fair website for details.
Want to park at the fairgrounds? Parking spaces designated for vehicles with a valid disabled persons’ parking identification placard are available in many fair lots on a first-come basis. Cost is $13. Be aware that there are no guarantees that spaces will be available. Vehicles with trailers are charged $26.
Access to fairgrounds parking is available off Larpenteur Avenue at Underwood Street and at Snelling Ave. at Hoyt Ave. Additional accessible parking is available in the lot south of Como Avenue. Please check www.mnstatefair.org to download an accessibility guide, and find links of the many accommodations.
Anyone with questions about State Fair accessibility can call 651-288-4448 or e-mail [email protected]