2023 Minnesota State Fair Attendance Down Less than 1%
Total attendance at the Minnesota State Fair this year was essentially flat compared to 2022, according to the latest attendance figures released Tuesday afternoon.
In 2023, the fair reported total attendance of 1,835,826, which was down just 0.3% from the prior year. The fair’s data show that daily attendance actually surpassed last year’s on eight days this year. On the second day this year, the fair even hit a new daily attendance record of 164,741.
But attendance over Labor Day weekend – when the fair typically records higher volumes of patrons – was down significantly this year, likely owing to excessive heat.
Still, attendance at the 2023 fair was notably up in the bigger picture. Per tabulations by the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, this year’s attendance will rank in the top 10 since the fair’s founding in 1859. The Pioneer Press, for its part, put the 2023 fair in sixth place overall.
It’s worth noting, too, that attendance has certainly come back from 2021, when the fair reported overall attendance of 1,301,584. At the time, Covid-19 cases were still elevated, ultimately driving many would-be fairgoers away.
2019 still ranks as the most-attended year in Minnesota’s history, with a total attendance of 2,126,551.
This year was also the first fair under new CEO Renee Alexander, who took the top spot in May after a long career with the fair. In an update on Saturday, Alexander acknowledged that some fairgoers would be disappointed after organizers made the decision to send livestock animals back home. In a follow-up update on Tuesday, she said she was “more awe-inspired by the dedication of so many than I could have imagined.”
Whether attendance figures are even a good assessment of a fair’s success is up for debate. Other financial metrics — revenue, expenses, total net position — aren’t available quite yet since the fair’s fiscal year doesn’t end until Oct. 31. In a 2018 annual report, former fair CEO Jerry Hammer wrote that “too much is made of State Fair Attendance.”
“It’s handy yardstick,” he said, “but the success of the fair is so much more than a turnstile count.”