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Minnesota State Fair: Safety tips for making the most of your visit

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State Fair season is officially upon us. For many Minnesotans, the Fair is more than just an annual tradition that heralds the end of summer. It holds a cherished place in our hearts. And so we spend endless hours exploring the colorful grounds, navigating shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, hopping on rides at Mighty Midway, gaping at birthing sows and wandering down aisles of alien-looking chicken breeds - all while stuffing ourselves silly with every imaginable food on a stick.

As we approach the final weekend of the Great Minnesota Get-Together, take a moment to brush up on some basic safety tips to make your visit a more enjoyable experience.

1. Use the park-and-ride.

If you've ever tried to drive in the vicinity of the fairgrounds while the Fair is in full swing, you know what a nightmare it can be. The congestion of traffic - pedestrians and cyclists, too - makes it tricky to navigate, especially when you're scouring a sea of vehicles to find that lucky parking spot (or following a family with a stroller at two miles-per-hour, hoping to eventually take their spot, which may very well be another mile away). It's a situation ripe for accidents. Spare yourself the hassle by utilizing the free park-and-ride.

2. Keep track of your loved ones.

Bringing kids who are too young to carry cellphones, but old enough to wander off alone in search of Pronto Pups? Have a toddler who's apt to dart away if you turn your back for an instant? Nothing kills the cheerful mood of the Fair faster than losing track of a child. Even though the grounds are well-patrolled, crimes can and do still happen at the Fair.

Be proactive by picking up free ID bracelets for your kids (or vulnerable adults) at the information stand on your way in. And tell your child what to do if he or she gets lost: Find the nearest police officer or information stand, and stay put.

3. Watch the weather.

The forecast isn't shaping up to be as simmering as in past years, but even mildly hot weather can trigger heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke. Know the signs and symptoms to watch for. If you start to feel fatigued, find an air-conditioned building or mister to cool off. Likewise, take shelter immediately if thunderstorms are looming.

And finally, have fun! Hopefully, by following these tips, you can ensure that the worst thing that happens at the Fair is a stomachache from eating too many Sweet Martha's cookies.

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