FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. – For farm families, a trip to the Minnesota State Fair can rarely be a spur-of-the-moment event.

To make the most of Minnesota’s late summer competition and exhibition festival, planning is essential.

The fair hit record attendance last year with 1.9 million visitors, and organizers are planning for a similar-sized crowd again this year.

There are several new items for 2017 that can help make this year’s trip the best yet.

The Minnesota State Fair is Thursday, Aug. 24-Labor Day, Sept. 4. Hours are 6 a.m. to midnight each day, except the final Monday, when the fair closes at 10 p.m.

“It is always 12 days of fun,” said Danielle Dullinger, general spokesperson. “We will be bright and ready to go on Aug. 24 at 6 a.m.”

For individuals using GPS, the fair’s address is 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108-3099.

To get to the fair from the north, take Interstate Highway 35W to Highway 36 and get off on Snelling Avenue.

From the south, take I-35 or I-94 to Snelling, and from the east or west, just look for Snelling Avenue.

“Snelling is going to be our main artery that gets people to the fair. They can exit onto Como. We do have [parking] lots located south of Como Avenue that you can park in,” said Dullinger.

Keep in mind, parking fills up fast on Como Avenue, so come early, or for easier parking, find a Park Free-Ride Free site.

Parking in the Como lots is $14 cash, and admission tickets will not cover parking this year.

The Park Free-Ride Free sites are located throughout the Twin Cities. For a list of Park Free-Ride Free locations, visit http://www.mnstatefair.org/general_info/get_here/park_ride.html.

“We also have a taxi, Uber and Lyft drop off, those are going to be located kind of at the corners of our fairgrounds. You can see a state fair map for locations on that, but that is another great way this year to get to the fair,” she said. “Hassle free, that is what we are always looking for.”

An easy way to find the fairgrounds will be to look for the Great Big Wheel, a new attraction for 2017.

This 156-foot-tall Ferris wheel is the largest travelling Ferris wheel in North America. The ride will carry riders 15 stories into the air for a complete view of the fairgrounds and surrounding Twin Cities. It features 500,000 LED lights.

The wheel will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Each gondola will can hold up to six people, and cost is $5 dollars per ticket.

Tickets for the fair are on sale now.

“Tickets are $11 now,” reminded Dullinger. “They do go up at the gate, it will be $14 for adults at the gate, $12 dollars for children and seniors, then children under 5 are always free,” she said.

A list of locations to purchase tickets is available online on the state fair website, under admissions. Advanced tickets can be ordered directly from the website or purchased from the state fair ticket office on the grounds. There are participating Cub Foods stores selling tickets now, as well as at “Meet Minneapolis,” the downtown Minneapolis visitor center. There are many other locations and options to purchase tickets throughout Greater Minnesota. Review the website for more information.

A schedule of daily events is also available online.

“We will also have our fun finder online. It is similar to daily schedules, but you can search by area or search by day to find something that you would be interested in doing at the fair. Come early, stay late and have your day all planned out and ready to go,” she said.

One event that may be entertaining for both children and adults is the “Dress a Sheep” Contest, located in the sheep barn on Sunday, Aug. 27 at 11 am. In teams of fours, competitors, who are already in costume, will have 10 minutes to dress their sheep to match. They will then show their fancy attire to win over the judges and the audience.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Evine, Minnesota’s own entertainment video retailer, will broadcast live from the state fair into more than 87 million homes with celebrity guests Paula Deen and John O’Hurley. Located at Expo Place, north of Murphy Avenue between Cooper and Cosgrove streets, east of the Pet Center, Evine will broadcast “Paula Deen’s Kitchen,” 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with a meet and greet from 2-3 p.m. “Pet Shoppe with John O’Hurley,” will broadcast live 2-3 p.m., with a meet and greet from 11 a.m. to noon.

Find a moment to relax on the new Veranda, located on the west end of the top floor of the historic Grandstand. This “shop-eat-sip” destination includes boutique-style shopping at nearly 20 vendors will showcase vintage, trendy, upcycled, handmade and made-in-Minnesota goods.

No trip to the Minnesota State Fair is complete without seeing what Minnesota’s 4-H youth have accomplished this year. With over 5,500 youth exhibiting, there will be 2,600 4-H building exhibits and over 2,800 livestock shown.

We hope to see you at the 2017 Minnesota State Fair!