A dark side to the 12 days of fun

Living in the neighborhoods surrounding the Minnesota State Fair grounds has many advantages, including easy access to all the events that take place at the grounds year-round.

But once a year, it seems like most of Minnesota and its border states descend upon this quiet village and bring more than a few nuisances.

“It’s as if someone threw a giant party at your house without your permission,” joked Bart Mackey, who lives with his wife, Sonja, just a couple of blocks from the main gate on Snelling Avenue.

“People cut through our yards like it’s a public space, leaving their garbage behind,” Sonja said.

“We love the fair, but there is definitely a dark side to it,” Bart added. The toughest challenge, according to neighbors in the Como area, is the added traffic and congestion.

Liz and Tony Schwandt moved into the area a couple of years ago. “Of course we knew we were moving close to the fair,” Liz said. “We could see the gate from our front yard. But we had no idea how crazy it could get.”

This year, the new transit hub on the west end of the fairgrounds aims to relieve some of the traffic issues associated with the large number of buses converging on the Como and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods during the fair.

A third of all state fair visitors use public transportation, and the numbers go up every year, according to Brienna Schuette, marketing and communications manager for the Minnesota State Fair.

“The goal of the new transit hub is twofold,” Schuette explained. “We were concerned about safety and about alleviating traffic congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Routing buses away from the main arteries through the University of Minnesota Transitway and onto the fairgrounds will loosen up traffic on Como Avenue, making it easier for residents to get around, and safer for fairgoers who will no longer have to cross Como to enter the fair, she said.

“We expect to see significant improvements already this year,” Schuette said. “Avoiding Como Avenue will make our visitors safer and allow residents to use this busy road more freely.”

Neighbors are glad to see that the fair is aware of the issues and is making changes. “We really do love the fair. We go a lot, and it brings the neighbors together,” Sonja Mackey emphasized. “It’s like a 12-day block party for us.”

“It’s only 12 days a year; we can handle it,” agreed Bart. “Bring it on.”

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