9/11 Memorial Museum attraction returns 

Free Dakota County Fair admission is expected to entice fairgoers to return and boost overall attendance this summer during the annual fair's seven-day run.

The Dakota County Agricultural Society, the governing fair board, voted unanimously during its November meeting to make the 2020 county fair admission-free.

“Our mission statement is to foster education and information, entertainment and achievement for all ages, and we believe by allowing free admission to the fair, it will allow more people to go multiple times,” said Pete Storlie, vice president of the fair board.

“We had healthy discussion as we should before we make a big decision, and we had a discussion of the pros and cons but in the end it was a unanimous vote,” Storlie said.

“We are challenged with our location, we are country land in Farmington but we are so close to the cities and suburbs, but there are a lot of other great events that people can attend so that was all part of our thought process, as well,” Storlie said in an interview.

He said the board understands that the fair competes for attendance with area attractions like the Renaissance Festival, Valleyfair, casinos and downtown Twin Cities concerts and music venues.

The last year admission was free was in 2000, although the Dakota County Fair has given free admission in previous years with the fair’s history dating back to 1858.

Discussion surrounding free admission has been on the table a few years, Storlie said, and the board has taken the feedback from fairgoers and from its fair board membership to move forward and make it happen this summer.

“We went to our finance and sales and marketing committees and we talked to our vendors, along with valued partners like the carnival, and we ran data and evaluated it and everything was positive,” Storlie said.

In recent years, the fair has offered a few free days for seniors, military members and their families, a free kids’ day and daycare day, as well as a free day for public safety members.  

This past summer the board decided to offer free admission on the first day of the fair, which was a Monday. This proved to be a well-attended day.

“When you look at what we are already doing for free admission to some of our fairgoers, we were not that far off for free admission for all seven days for everybody,” Storlie said.

The nearby Steele County Fair in Owatonna has free fair attendance.

“We are not doing it to compete with other fairs because we believe everyone should get out and enjoy as many county fairs as they can because it is a lot of fun,” Storlie said.

9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit returns

The 9-11 Never Forget Memorial will return for all seven days of Dakota County Fair on Aug. 10-16, 2020.

In 2018 the fair board booked the historical memorial museum for three days and the free fair attraction was popular with fairgoers and attracted new visitors.

The mobile exhibit is designed to educate youths about Sept. 11, 2001. This exhibit aims to pay tribute to the lives lost in the terrorist attack that took place in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Local public safety staff welcomed the 9/11 mobile bus into Farmington with a parade as dozens of local emergency vehicles acted as a welcoming caravan onto the fairgrounds.  

After the first of the year, Storlie said the fair plans to conduct conversations with local fire, police departments and first responders from across Dakota County to see if the departments can help work the exhibit during fair hours.

Fairgoers will hear and see stories about first responders who brought light to this country on perhaps the nation’s darkest day in history. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tunnel Foundation and the Siller family created the exhibit in 2013 as a tribute to lives sacrificed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Black top roads

The fair board agreed to partner with Dakota County to look into blacktopping some of the roads within the fairgrounds.

“This may take place in May if the dollars come back well, and last year the county rejected it because the prices were too high,” Storlie said.

The blacktopping project for the fair’s dirt roads would be done in phases over three years.

“We (the fair board) are financing it but we are joining on the county’s blacktop bidding process to get better pricing and, in a sense, we are subcontracting with the county,” Storlie said.

The dirt roads have become an issue with fairgoers, especially on rainy days.

The blacktop roads will not include streets within Dakota City Heritage Village that adjoins to the county fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds, located on 300 acres of land in Castle Rock Township, has designated land devoted to a forever wildlife easement on the south side of the fairgrounds.

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