After being canceled last year due to the COVID pandemic, the 170th Wisconsin State Fair is set to begin in four days.
Organizers are continuing their last moment preparations at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
“It’s a magical time of the year,” says State Fair Park CEO Kathleen O’Leary. She tells WTMJ while many of the attractions, such as the food, the rides and the ag shows, will be part of the fair, some changes are being made due to COVID. “Health and safety has been at the forefront.”
One such change will be recommending people wear masks inside all of the seven public buildings they operate on the fairgrounds. O’Leary says it’s part of their efforts to follow CDC guidelines. “There will be signage; the recommendations, the guidelines will be posted. People will need to make decisions for themselves based on their situation. We hope that everyone will be respectful of each other, indoors or outdoors, for the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair, and quite frankly every day we should be respectful of each other. This is a very difficult time in our lives. There’s no question about it.”
Also new this year is when the fair will open to the public each day, moving back from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. O’Leary says it’s not just to clean the fairgrounds for COVID precautions, but also to accommodate an industry-wide worker shortage. “We need to look at our operations. We need to find efficiencies. We need to make adjustments. By adjusting the hours of operations does help us with these shifts.”
Another change will be to have all admission and parking gates operate cashless. O’Leary says it’s not just because of COVID, but also following an industry trend to make more of their transactions made by card or mobile payments.
Overall, O’Leary says it is great to have the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair ready to begin soon, and she’s hopeful the adjustments made this year will be temporary. “We’re not trying to take away from any of the experience. We just have to make these adjustments for 2021.”
Listen to the full interview with Kathleen O’Leary on Wisconsin’s Weekend Morning News above.