Wisconsin State Fair updates; new hours, parking and admissions cashless

After a year of going dark due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin State Fair officials on Thursday, June 24 announced a series of updates and changes for the 2021 fair. 

New operating hours, a cashless experience for parking and admissions, and more will be in effect when the fair takes place Thursday, Aug. 5 through Sunday, Aug. 15.

Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO Kathleen O'Leary is counting down the days until the gates open and the magic of the fair returns.

"Not enough hours in the day, but we will get ourselves there," said O'Leary. "To see that joy and the smiles on the faces and the family units being able to enjoy time together is something that I’ve always loved all 24 years of my career here."

Like past years, there will be no shortage of pig racing, livestock shows and, of course, fried food.

"We will have cream puffs, the giant slide will be all ready for the great sliding fun," O'Leary said. "But we also have to make some adjustments."

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Hours of operation

The Wisconsin State Fair will open at 11 a.m. daily and will close each night at 11 p.m., with the exception of the final Sunday, when the fair will close at 10 p.m. 

Parking in State Fair Park lots will open at 10:30 a.m. daily, and agriculture and competitive exhibit competitions and shows that were scheduled prior to 11 a.m. will continue to take place. All food vendors, shopping, buildings and SpinCity will be open at 11 a.m.

"The celebration of everything we should be so proud of in Wisconsin – which is exactly what the Wisconsin State Fair is – is such an amazing feeling," said O'Leary.

Wisconsin State Fair

Help wanted

O'Leary tells FOX6 News the modified hours are due to a number of factors – including increased sanitization protocols that require additional time, as well as a labor shortage currently impacting many businesses and organizations.

"It is one of our biggest challenges," O'Leary said.

To ensure things run smoothly, O'Leary said the Wisconsin State Fair needs a total of 1,800 workers; they are still looking for more staff to help pull off the 2021 event. The fair's hiring center is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Visit the State Fair Hiring Center website for more information, including hours and what interested applicants should bring.

Wisconsin State Fair rides

Payment upon entry

To make entry more efficient and to continue to prioritize safety, parking and admissions purchased on-site will be cashless.

Fair officials strongly encourage fairgoers to purchase their general admission tickets prior to arriving at the fair to reduce lines for purchasing tickets and create a more seamless entrance process.

There are still several ways to purchase admission tickets in advance using cash or credit cards, including the State Fair Ticket Office and official retail partners. Fairgoers can also purchase admission tickets and more online at WiStateFair.com. Discounted tickets are available through July 16.

"Our mission as we plan for the 170th Wisconsin State Fair is to maintain our beloved traditions and commitment to affordability while keeping health and safety top of mind," said O’Leary. "While there are some changes this year, our staff is working hard to bring you the State Fair you have known and loved for generations."

Wisconsin State Fair

Health guidance

Masks will not be required at the 2021 Wisconsin State Fair and individuals are encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance

Additionally, because the fair takes place at the expansive 200-acre Wisconsin State Fair Park, the 2021 State Fair will not have capacity limits.

According to a new release, additional operational adjustments have been made for health and safety reasons. These include not selling new refillable souvenir cups or refilling past year’s cups. Various eating contests will not be held.

Visit the fair's website for information on all programming and operational adjustments.


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