State Fair Crowd (copy)

A crowd packs onto the street on the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair in 2019.

COVID-19 has canceled the Minnesota State Fair.

The fair’s governing board on Friday agreed the 2020 Great Minnesota Get-Together could not go on because of the potential public health risk from the disease.

"We all love the fair and that's exactly why we can't have a fair this year,” Minnesota State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said.

The fair has been canceled before, most recently in 1946 because of a polio epidemic. This year, state health leaders have worried over the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans packed in at the fair amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late April, Gov. Tim Walz did not sound optimistic when a reporter asked about the fair’s prospects to start in late August.

“I wouldn’t want to make a definitive call. But I also don’t want to give any false hope on this. I think it would be very difficult to see a State Fair operating,” he said. “I don’t know how you social distance in there. I mean one of the greatest parts of the State Fair is it’s super crowded.”

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm sounded equally pessimistic on Thursday. Her agency, she said, didn’t make a recommendation but did lay out the risks to fair officials.

“By late August, early September, unfortunately everything we know, everything we see, even if we’re past the peak, which we expect to be, there still will be a great, great deal of community spread and a great risk of transmission,” she said.

Fair officials had been telling vendors and participants that they expected to make a final decision far in advance to allow food stands, attractions and exhibitors enough time to plan appropriately.