SAUK RAPIDS -- This week was supposed to be the 106th annual Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids, but like most other large events this summer, it has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair Board President Al Stemper has been involved with the Benton County Fair for 32 years. He says the board made the decision to cancel back in May to give their more than 260 vendors plenty of advance notice.

We do have a big draw, it's not only from our local community but people from the outside that have to commit, so the decision had to come early and of course, that decision was pretty much reinforced after everyone else seemed to follow in mid to late May including the State Fair.  So, I think for us it was a pretty easy decision and the one we had to make.

Stemper says they estimate they draw between 110,000 and 120,000 people each year making it one of the top 10 county fairs in the state.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

He says the last time the Benton County Fair was canceled was in 1946 because of a polio outbreak.

Benton County Fairgrounds, photo by's Jim Maurice
Benton County Fairgrounds, photo by's Jim Maurice

Stemper says they'll miss the loss in revenue that they get from the six-day run of the fair, but fortunately, they are in a pretty good financial position.

We had a very successful fair in 2019 with our weather and everything and so we were fortunate to have money there in the treasurer's account, so we're able to still pay the bills, we've got ongoing monthly bills like a normal business.  We have had to scale back on our improvements to the grounds which we try to do every year.

Additionally, for dozens of local service organizations, this week would have been their biggest fundraiser of the year at the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids. Stemper says they rely on those groups to help keep up the grounds during the six-day run of the fair.

Some of our student groups that are here, I think about the swim team, football team, hockey groups that are here to help with clean-up.  We've got a lot of service organizations that are going to miss out on those dollars this year.

Stemper says, besides the financial impact, not having the time to visit with family and friends at the fair will be missed.

The Benton County Fair was scheduled to run Tuesday through Sunday.

More From 98.1 Minnesota's New Country