Minnesota State Fair Weather

General Scene at the Fair Around 1900General Scene at the Fair Around 1900
Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society

It's time once again for the "Great Minnesota Get Together." Weather plays quite a role in the State Fair experience. Who doesn't remember braving the heat with the crowds on one of the busier intersections on a sweltering afternoon? A quick rain burst will send people scurrying for cover, and folks savor balmy days in the 70's with just a bit of a breeze. Below are some State Fair weather facts and some interesting weather events that have happened in past Minnesota State Fairs.

The Minnesota State Fair has been held at its current site since 1885. There were some years when the fair was not held because of war, disease or logistical reasons. These years are: 1861 (Civil War) 1862 (Civil and Indian War) 1893 (Columbian Exposition) 1945 (fuel shortage because of WWII) and the last time the fair was not held was in 1946 due to an outbreak of Polio. The fair has a 12 day run each year ending with Labor Day. Thus the fair begins on a Thursday in August. The State Fair in 2010 runs from August 26 to September 6.

Temperatures can be highly variable as the summer begins to slip away. The sun is already setting about an hour earlier than it did in June. The average high temperature during the fair is in the mid to upper 70's with the average low temperature in the upper 50's to low 60's. There's been some extreme heat during the fair with 97 degrees on September 1. 1913 and also August 24, 2003. The coolest fair was 36 degrees on September 1, 1974.

On average it rains about 3 to 4 days during the fair's 12 day run. The wettest fair was in 1977 with 9.48 inches, and the driest fair was 2003 with only .02 inch of rain.

2009 was very pleasant and dry at the Minnesota State Fair. It was one of the driest on record with only .08 inch of rain. It was on the cool side too with the first nine days at or below normal. The warmest temperature was 79 degrees for each of the last three days of the fair.

The largest rain event in the State Fair's history was 4.06 inches on August 30, 1977. At 8:20 pm heavy rains hit the State Fair. The U of M St. Paul Campus climate observatory mile north of the fairgrounds saw 4.06 inches of rain. This caused some of the worst street flooding seen at the fairgrounds. The bulk of the rain fell in a 3 1/2 hour period from 8:15pm to 11:45pm. The grandstand show was cancelled, and people had great difficulty trying to leave the fair. The Twin Cities International Airport saw 7.28 inches from this event, second only to the 1987 'Superstorm." People driving on I-94 leaving the fair found water "up to their hood ornaments" in low areas under bridges.

The peak of severe weather in the Twin Cities happens in June, but severe storms can and have happened during the State Fair. As recently as 2007, just two weeks before the fair was to start, a thunderstorm with high winds estimated to 67mph hit the fairgrounds. Below is an excerpt from Storm Data on August 11, 2007.

A long and wide swath of damaging wind extended from just west of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights to the northeastern corner of the city of St Paul. Approximately 4000 trees were felled. Affected neighborhoods were St. Anthony, Como and Phalen. The worst damage was in the Como Park area, where many trees fell on houses, vehicles, sheds and garages. One tree crashed into a house and destroyed it. One man was injured when a window blew in on him. At the State Fair, part of the grandstand roof was torn off, and roofs were also torn off some exhibition buildings. Dozens of vendor booths were blown around, with many severely damaged. The damage was oriented from west to east. At one point shortly after the storm, XCEL Energy reported over 250,000 outages across the Minneapolis-St. Paul region.

On August 17 1940, a severe windstorm hit the fairgrounds one week before it opened and blew down tents and damaged equipment on Machinery Hill. One of the tents downed was a block long "big top" tent that housed the International Havester Co. farm implements. Persons on the hill escaped injury.