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Make Mine a Double: Rhoden Plowing Ahead with State Fair

If you like beer and if you like the State Fair, your ship may be coming in. Governor Noem has her curiously multi-tasking lieutenant Larry Rhoden working on the still-not-canceled South Dakota State Fair in Huron:

By the time fall rolls around we will be ready for more fun and entertainment and a corn dog. Bring on the South Dakota State Fair. Lieutenant Governor and interim Agriculture Secretary Larry Rhoden are working on state fair planning.

According to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem the State Fair annually held in Huron, South Dakota will be held September 3-7. The Governor says they continue to think out of the box about ways to continue on with the fair and keep people safe and public health a priority [Dave Roberts, “South Dakota State Fair Is Still On,” KXRB Radio, 2020.05.13].

Good grief: Larry Rhoden can’t even keep two sloppy drunks out of the State Capitol during Session; how’s he going to keep tomfoolery from getting out of hand at the State Fair Beer Garden?

North Dakota has canceled its state fair, which usually takes place midsummer and this year was scheduled for July 17–25 in Minot. North Dakota canceled in part because of direct public health concerns but also because of the challenges of rounding up vendors and participants, as described by fair manager Renae Korslien:

“Some great food booths out of Minnesota and different states said they couldn’t come to our fair because the county fairs have canceled. That’s true for vendors and food booths,” said Korslien.

Vendors are relied upon to fill the commercial buildings at the State Fair where space is usually in high demand. Many had already notified the fair that they were not likely to attend due to coronavirus. The midway carnival was an issue facing the fair board too.

“They would come,” said Korslien, “But they had to have a guarantee they wouldn’t be shut down.”

It has been apparent for several weeks that even if the State Fair was to be held this summer, it would have a very different look. With schools canceling classes there would be very few FFA exhibits, one of the display features of the fair. 4-H had also expressed concerns about livestock shows, another staple of the State Fair.

“I had concerns from superintendents from every single area,” said Korslien. “They said they wouldn’t risk their health. We absolutely tried to figure out a way we could make it work even though we knew the crowd would be down” [Kim Fundingsland, “North Dakota State Fair Canceled for 2020 Due to Coronavirus Concerns,” Minot Daily News, 2020.05.11].

Even if AGISA Rhoden opens the gates in Huron, he may have trouble getting vendors and exhibitors and tourists to come in, even if he gets his lobbyist friends to offer free beer.

The Montana State Fair is still on for July 24–August 1, although they’ve lost their horse races. Wyoming is still planning its state fair for August 11–15.

Looking toward other Labor Day fairs, I read the Minnesota State Fair, a 268-million-dollar economic engine, is still on, although Hennepin, Ramsey, and Norman counties have canceled their fairs. Iowa State Fair planners say they’ll decide fair/no fair by mid-June. The Nebraska State Fair remains in go mode, apparently hoping that the coronavirus outbreak at host city Grand Island’s JBS meat factory has done its worst and won’t come back.

Locally, the Sioux Empire Fair is still possible. Turner County Fair organizers are waiting until July 16 to decide whether to hold their August event. And the Brown County Fair is still promising to host the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a remarkable twin bill of Nelly and Jo Dee Messina here in Aberdeen in mid-August.


  1. Debbo 2020-05-14

    The Minnesota State Fair is very iffy. I’ll be surprised if it happens. Local news usually reports that “The Great Minnesota Get Together” hasn’t been canceled, yet. It’s expected to be.

  2. jerry 2020-05-15

    To die for Wall Street, not as good as a hot dog and free beer, but the sacrifice will be for what? If Queen NOem and her knave Rhoden, promise like 30 virgins or something like that, possibly. We bust those boys over in the sand box for falling for the same kinds of gibberish, but here we are, doing the same, for our Wall Street money god. Rhoden must promise the 30 virgins or I ain’t going.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-24

    Alas, the Minnesota State Fair is canceled. The last time it was canceled was 1946, for the polio epidemic.

  4. mike from iowa 2020-05-24

    In iowa, the country music headliner cancelled his appearance at the state fair, The Bill Riley talent show has already cancelled. People in charge said they need to decide by June what to do as it takes 2 months to prepare the grounds and fair site. They claim to have been in touch with Minnesota fair board and others.

    RAGBRAI already cancelled in April.

  5. Debbo 2020-05-24

    It’s the 6th time the Great Minnesota Get Together has been canceled. I think the first state fair was held in 1869.

    This summer is not like the others. I see lots of people out and about this weekend, but only in very small collections. May be different in more conservative areas.

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