Gut-crushingly complete reviews of Minnesota State Fair food are part of Heavy Table’s DNA. When we started writing our culinary rundowns, in 2010, our punishing dedication to Fair food was one of the things that set us apart. We have a fierce love for this event, and for all the culinary goodness (and weirdness, and badness) that it brings.
But this year, we’re not going. We’d no sooner review food at the Fair this year than we’d write a post entitled Top 10 Things to Eat Inside of a Geologically Unstable Cave System Sprinkled with Potentially Deadly Methane Pockets.
The announcement this week that the Minnesota State Fair would make no effort to enforce masking, distancing, vaccination, attendance limits or anything whatsoever that might help slow the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 represents a disappointing pivot from the Fair’s foundational roots.
Look, for example, at the canned goods that people bring to the Fair for judgement; since the 1917 “food training camp” Fair, food safety has been paramount, with the hygenic make process a major part of how goods are judged. Public health through example, through encouragement, and through education is at the center of the Fair’s agricultural heritage.
In 2021, the Minnesota State Fair has an opportunity to celebrate its core values – innovation, community, health and safety – by taking a stand, no matter how logistically challenging, against a deadly disease. But instead, the Fair is asking the general public to “do the right thing.”
There is a significant portion of the American population that regards doing the right thing as refusing to mask, refusing to vaccinate, and refusing to self-isolate even when sick. Personal initiative is not a substitute for institutional mandates. The fact that the effort of trying to enforce safety standards would be “extremely difficult” does not absolve the Fair of its duty.
We would love to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and our decision not to cover its new foods this year is collectively breaking our hearts. But until the Fair shows itself to be safe and committed to public health, we can’t in good conscience endorse or promote it.