The Waseca County Free Fair is on this summer. (File photo/southernminn.com)

The Waseca County Free Fair is on this summer, after being forced to cancel last year due to COVID-19.

The fair will take place Wednesday, July 14 to Sunday, July 18.

“The fair is gonna look pretty much like it always has,” said Robin Dulas, secretary/treasurer for the Waseca County Fair Board. “The restrictions have been lifted.”

New elements for the fair this year include the sale of digital ride tickets, which fairgoers will be able to present as a QR code or print-out to enter the fair. There will also be grandstand events, including bull riding, demolition derby and car racing. The fairbook can be found on the Facebook page.

In preparation for the fair, the board was able to install a new concrete floor in building 15 and a new roof for buildings seven and eight on the fairgrounds, as well as updating the 4-H food stand. As a nonprofit, Dulas explained, the board can only fund so many projects, but sponsorships make all the preparation they do each year possible. Although donations are down due to COVID, grants from the state, city, and county level have also helped, she said.

Canceling the fair — Waseca’s biggest summer event — last year was not an easy decision, Dulas said. But when other fairs started canceling, the board knew it wasn’t feasible or safe to go forward. No fairs were held last year in Minnesota.

“We just couldn’t take that risk,” she explained. “A lot of people come to the fair, and we didn’t want it to be a hotspot.”

Last year’s cancellation was one of very few in the Waseca County Free Fair’s history, which was first held in 1879. Dulas said there have now been only three cancellation’s in the fair’s 142-year-old history: during the polio epidemic a century ago, for World War II, and for COVID-19. It takes a lot to cancel a fair, she explained.

“We had comments on the Facebook page that were so sad,” Dulas said. “People come from different places who take their vacation during the fair. But it was the best decision we could make. It was the right decision.”

The board is hoping not just for the best fair in two years, she said, but in three — two years ago, the weather was terrible, marked by brutal heat, rain, and even tornadoes. The weather is no small factor in a fair’s success.

For Dulas, getting everybody together is always the best part of the fair. This year, though, is particularly special, since so many people haven’t been able to see each other, let alone get out and do many of the fun activities they used to enjoy, for more than a year.

“There’s only so much Netflix you can watch,” Dulas said.

Reach Reporter Julian Hast at 507-333-3133. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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