Attendees watch from the midway as carnival rides light up the evening sky at the 2019 Michigan State Fair.

Attendees watch from the midway as carnival rides light up the evening sky at the 2019 Michigan State Fair.

Photo provided by Michigan State Fair LLC

Michigan State Fair to return to in-person programming

By: Jonathan Shead | Metro | Published August 30, 2021

NOVI — After a year of fully virtual programming, the Michigan State Fair, hosted at the Suburban Collection Showplace, will return to in-person festivities for the 2021 season.

Michigan State Fair Public Relations Manager McKenzie Bowman feels excited to bring the festival back to the Showplace grounds Sept. 2-6. The fair will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday.

“We’re going to be responsibly producing it and making sure that everyone is having a safe and fun time,” Bowman said about this year’s fair. “It’s just great to get the community back together in person to celebrate all things Michigan. We’re really looking forward to an in-person year.”

While fair organizers wouldn’t call the all-virtual festival a failure last year — the fair was virtually attended by more than 250,000 online viewers and raised $89,000 for local charities — Bowman said virtual elements don’t provide the same experience.

“The virtual element, while it was successful, doesn’t give it that same feel and the same nostalgia you get from actually attending the fair. The amount of feedback we’ve gotten from sponsors and people attending that want to come, and want the fair to be in person, has been astounding,” she said.

Fair organizers aren’t ditching the virtual component and online presence of the fair completely this year, however. There will still be a virtual option available for anyone unable to attend. The 4-H & Youth Showcase will continue to include a virtual element, as well.

“The kids who are too far away, who can’t come because of COVID or other issues, they can submit and show their animals and projects and all of their hard year’s work online, which was a great adaptation from the virtual year in 2020 that we’re definitely keeping in place moving forward,” Bowman said.

As agricultural enthusiasts, carnival lovers, and vendors gear up for the upcoming state fair, many will see the return of their favorite attractions, as staples including the beer tent, Superstar competition, Moovin’ thru the Midway 5K, butter cow, blood drive, Raminator Monster Truck Car Crush, Shrine Circus and more are slated to make their return.

With so many businesses being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, Bowman admitted that it’s been harder than years past to return the fair back to its previous standing.

“It’s definitely been a challenging planning process,” she said. “We’ve been very flexible (and) very understanding with everyone, and really just trying to keep who was a part of the state fair family in the state fair family, so we can put on a show that is as good as it was in 2019.”

Novi Mayor Bob Gatt is ready for the excitement of the fair to return.

“This year, I’m looking forward to jam-packed crowds, and jam-packed events, and a jam-packed circus, and everything that’s going to happen, because people want to become normal again,” he said. “People want to be out and enjoy life. People want to enjoy themselves. This state fair is going to give them that opportunity.”

In a similar light, Bowman hopes that fair visitors will feel a sense of community as they celebrate the state’s offerings.

“I think of any year, this is the year that the state has truly come together and persevered through unprecedented times. Now is the time we should all come together and celebrate, and really engage in all things Michigan, coming together as a community,” she said.

The state fair helps grow the local community, too, Gatt said.

“I think people coming to Novi for the state fair will also stop at our restaurants and enjoy the fine meals we can offer. Some may stop at our shopping centers. I think the state fair is going to be further proof that people are ready to go out and live again,” Gatt said.

The Michigan State Fair debuted in 1849 as one of the first statewide fairs. In 1905, the fair was moved to the Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road fairgrounds, where it was produced until 2009, before it was discontinued by state government officials due to budget issues. In 2013, the state fair returned, in a new way, to the Suburban Collection Showplace.

“We try to hold on to the nostalgia and the history from the original state fair, but we are definitely a modern, reinvented state fair. Part of our building is turned into a barn, which is definitely not traditional,” Bowman said.

Fair organizers will be asking unvaccinated attendees to wear a facial covering on the fairgrounds, and they recommend visitors wear a mask while indoors.

“Things are pivoting as new recommendations are coming out from local health organizations. We’re just staying in tune with whatever is the most up-to-date guidelines and putting out signage for that,” Bowman said.

Gatt believes that as long as recommendations related to COVID-19 don’t change before the fair, it’ll see a record-breaking number of people attending.

“I look forward to the ability to get out and put COVID in our rearview mirror. That’s where I want it to go,” he said. “A lot could change in 10 days, but assuming everything stays as is, I think we’re going to see a record-breaking number of people coming out to the Michigan State Fair and enjoying themselves, having a good time.”

Discounted ultimate wristbands, which include unlimited carnival rides and admission to circus performances, are available at Kroger locations across southeast Michigan. Wristbands will be discounted $8 off the normal $30 price tag, with $2 being donated from each wristband purchased to feed hungry families in the state.

Tickets are also available online or at the box office on the days of the fair. Fair admission will cost $8 for adults and $6 for children. Parking admission can also be purchased online this year, alongside tickets.

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