Each year, the Minnesota State Fair, also known as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” punctuates the end of Minnesota’s warm summer. Area residents get a chance for a last hurrah before kids, and college students return to school and the weather becomes cooler.
Fair attendees enjoy concerts at the Grandstand, rides at the Mighty Midway, beers at one of several beer gardens, delicious food in the Food Building and throughout the grounds, and various exhibitions highlighting Minnesota’s agriculture and industry.
Unfortunately, risk comes with all the enjoyment the Minnesota State Fair brings. Some fairgoers suffer injuries by no fault of their own. We don’t want you to skip the fair, but you should know the dangers you may encounter there, how to avoid them, and, finally, what to do if you suffer preventable injuries caused by a negligent person or company. (The best thing you can do if you suffered injuries at the fair is consult an attorney to learn about your legal options.)
In addition to discussing the types of injuries you could sustain and who you might hold liable for them, we offer some fun history and facts about the Great Minnesota Get-Together. For more information, contact our Minnesota personal injury lawyers for a free consultation.
History of the Minnesota State Fair
The Minnesota State Fair has not always been in today’s central location in Falcon Heights off Snelling Avenue between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The first fair, held in 1859, welcomed visitors to the area that is now downtown Minneapolis. In the late 1800s, the fair’s site rotated between Minnesota’s major cities, including St. Paul, Rochester, Red Wing, Winona, and Owatonna.
According to the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, the fair didn’t get its permanent home until Ramsey County donated its 210-acre farm to the state for use by the Agricultural Society in 1885. The fair and its structures have grown over the years. Today the fairgrounds span 322 acres and include historical buildings like the Fine Arts Center, Progress Center, and the Agriculture Horticulture Building.
The Minnesota State Fair has also hosted several significant historical events. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech with his famous quote, "speak softly and carry a big stick." In 1906, famous racehorse Dan Patch set a record for the mile at the state fair’s racetrack. John Philip Sousa debuted one of his most famous works, “The Minnesota March,” in 1927, the same year the popular Tilt-a-Whirl ride debuted at the midway.
Fun Facts and Statistics About the Minnesota State Fair
With more than 160 years of history, the Minnesota State Fair has some fun facts and statistics that you might not know, even if you are a yearly visitor.
- The fair’s original purpose was to encourage farming in Minnesota. Compared to other state fairs around the country, agriculture is still the primary focus of the fair, but visitors enjoy many other forms of entertainment, technology exhibits, and industrial exhibits.
- The Minnesota State Fair has been a yearly event for all but six years since 1859. The fair did not occur in 1861 or 1862 because of the Civil War and U.S.-Dakota War. A scheduling conflict with an exposition in Chicago prevented the fair from happening in 1893. The Agricultural Society canceled the fair in 1945 because of World War II travel restrictions, in 1946 because of a polio epidemic, and in 2020 because of COVID-19.
- More than two million visitors go through the Minnesota State Fair gates each year, making it the second-largest state fair in the nation behind Texas.
- Tom Thumb donuts were invented and debuted at the Minnesota State Fair in 1949.
- On June 22, 1910, Minnesota’s first airplane flight occurred at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
- The fair’s space tower was built in Germany and shipped to Duluth, where 20 trucks transported it to the fairgrounds.
- It would take the average cow eight to nine years to produce 26,000 gallons of milk, the amount served yearly at the All You Can Drink Milk booth.
- The Minnesota State Fair is famous for its food, with about 300 concession stands.
- Each year, the vendors who sell the famous roasted corn roast about 25,000 ears of corn.
Accidents at the Minnesota State Fair
Although you could suffer injuries on a ride at the Mighty Midway, or your child might get injured at the Kidway, it's highly unlikely. Since 1995, the Minnesota State Fair has relied on one of the top-rated teams of amusement ride inspectors to ensure riders are safe. The team inspects each ride three times: during assembly on the fairgrounds, daily by ride operators, and during a state utility inspection. Fairgoers have not reported any major ride-related injuries throughout its history.
However, fairgoers can suffer harm in various types of accidents and scenarios unrelated to ride malfunctions during the 12-days of the Minnesota State Fair. Examples include:
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents are, by far, the most common accidents to occur at the Minnesota State Fair. Sometimes people trip over their feet or struggle with mobility because of heavy drinking. However, other times cords, wires, potholes, and other hazards can cause fairgoers to lose their footing and fall. The fairgrounds paved many of its walkways, so a fall outside could mean suffering severe injuries when a body hits the pavement.
Slip and fall accidents can also occur at the various indoor exhibitions, whether in temporary or permanent structures. Slip and falls can lead to broken bones, soft tissue injuries, and head traumas that cause brain injuries, making them especially dangerous.
Infection Transmission from Animal Contact
In 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigated an outbreak of E. coli and traced the infections to the Minnesota State Fair. The data their evidence produced suggests that those who suffered from the outbreak had contact with livestock, including calves, goats, sheep, and piglets. Some people were not infected directly but were exposed through contact with fence rails and other contaminated surfaces.
Documented problems with bacteria transmission at petting zoos and exhibits with livestock take place throughout the country. Other possible infections visitors could contract from animals include Cryptosporidium and Salmonella.
Agriculture is a large part of the Minnesota State Fair and has been since its beginning. Visitors can interact with cattle, swine, horses, alpacas, llamas, poultry, rabbits, sheep, goats, and others. The popular CHS Miracle of Birth Center welcomes around 200 animal babies yearly during the state fair. Visitors who interact with these animals risk contracting an infection or illness.
The hot summer days that often occur during the Minnesota State Fair, cooking outdoors, and part-time/temporary food vendors increase the chance of food contamination and food poisoning for visitors.
Many food vendors and their employees are part-time or seasonal help who often lack training in best practices for food handling and safety. They likely have never taken a food safety course, increasing the chance they will mishandle perishable food, which is easy to do in the heat.
Cooking outside also removes common safety controls that an indoor kitchen provides. For example, it’s hard to monitor food temperatures, refrigeration can be a struggle for some vendors, and many booth areas do not have washing areas.
Assault, Battery, and Other Criminal Acts
Everyone who comes through the Minnesota State Fair gates must go through a metal detector to prevent the entry of prohibited items like guns and other weapons. This helps keep the fairgrounds safe for everyone. However, crime still occurs sometimes even with the presence of Ramsey County law enforcement.
Historically, the fair has been relatively absent of violent crime inside the gates. Over the years, a few incidents have occurred right outside the gates. Those who suffer an attack need to speak with a lawyer to learn about their legal options for recovering damages.
Mandatory Insurance Requirements for Vendors and Exhibitors
The Minnesota State Fair requires all vendors and exhibitors to carry various types of insurance.
First, they must carry commercial general liability insurance and comply with:
- Minimum $1 million in coverage per event and $2 million in coverage per year, including property damage and bodily injury.
- Vendors and exhibitors must carry coverage to protect them from product liability claims, if applicable.
- Vendors and exhibitors must list the Minnesota State Fair and Minnesota State Agricultural Society as additional insured on their policy.
The fair also requires vendors and exhibitors to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect anyone who suffers injuries while working in a booth or exhibit.
Who Is Liable for Injuries at the Minnesota State Fair?
More than anything, we want you to have fun and enjoy the fair. Watch carefully for hazards, report any that you see, and follow all of the safety rules.
Sometimes, however, that’s not enough, because the people running the fair, or parts of it, don’t follow simple safety guidelines. If all else fails and you find yourself injured by someone else’s negligence, seek medical care and then call a lawyer.
It’s not easy to determine liability for illness or injury at the Minnesota State Fair. Depending on the situation, multiple parties could share liability. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who knows how to apply Minnesota's law to your claim. A lawyer can evaluate your case and determine where to file a claim and if you need to file a lawsuit.
Examples of parties who could be liable include:
- Minnesota State Agricultural Society, which is the fair’s governing body
- A business owner operating an exhibit
- A food vendor
- Another fairgoer
Ultimately, you need to prove negligence to prevail in your claim. Outside of suffering injuries from intentional harm, you will most likely have to prove that the party liable for your harm failed to warn you of the dangers or hazards that led to your injuries.
What Should You Do if You Suffer Injuries at the Minnesota State Fair?
Seek medical attention immediately. In severe emergencies, you should call 911. However, for injuries that do not require an ambulance ride, you could begin by calling the fair's non-emergency number—651-291-1111—or, you can visit one of the fair's two first aid stations sponsored by Regions Hospital. First Aid West is across from West End Market and First Aid East is outside the north end of the 4-H Building on Cosgrove Street.
Once you’ve received medical treatment and start searching for an experienced attorney, take the following steps to give you the best chances of recovering damages for your injuries or illness.
Report Your Injury
Whether you take an ambulance ride to Regions Hospital or receive treatment at a medical station, you must report your injury. Provide all details about how your injury occurred to your treating physician. Medical documentation of your injury or illness is key to proving it occurred at the Minnesota State Fair and prevents the other side from arguing you had preexisting injuries or your injury occurred elsewhere.
Get Witness Information
Depending on the circumstances of your injury, witnesses might have offered their contact information to you or friends or family you were with at the fair. Organize this information and provide it to your lawyer. Once you hire an attorney, you want them to contact eyewitnesses as soon as possible. Independent witnesses often provide an unbiased view of events, which can support your claim. In some cases, witnesses might have cell phone photos or videos to share with you.
Keep Records of Economic Loss
Severe injuries and illnesses are costly. In addition to medical expenses, some people need to take time away from work for hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Save all medical bills, including those for:
- Ambulance service
- Emergency room treatment
- Doctor visits
- Surgery and related costs
- Lab tests
Also, keep your payroll information from work to prove lost income and benefits. These are the major elements of economic loss in a personal injury claim, but you might also have other related expenses, such as costs for assistive devices, therapy, and outside help for your household. It’s best to keep everything and provide it to your lawyer, who can let you know what supports your claim.
Keep a Daily Journal
You need to convey the impact of your injury or illness on your personal life and your career to your lawyer, so you can seek compensation for non-economic damages. The best way to do this is to keep a daily journal that describes thoughts, feelings, and challenges related to your injuries. When you contact a Minnesota personal injury lawyer, they will have better information to place a value on your claim.