ST PAUL, Minn. — To be clear, nobody expected a stick in the arm to rival food on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair, but the Minnesota Department of Health didn't launch it's COVID vaccination site as a main attraction.
"Even if you do five people, or 500 people, every shot in the arm is a positive thing," said Jason Cluesman, logistics manager for the MDH vaccination site.
Far more than five people were lined up outside the vaccination site before it even opened on Thursday. By the end of the first day of the fair, MDH had administered 227 doses of the vaccine, putting on pace to surpass similar efforts at the Wisconsin and Iowa State Fairs.
Minnesota helped sweeten the deal by offering $100, on the spot, to anyone who comes in and gets a shot of either the Johnson&Johnson or the Pfizer vaccine.
Jason Cluesman: "We had a line again this morning when the doors opened. Even with all the rain and stuff this morning, people were lining up and excited."
Kent Erdahl: "Is that, personally, surprising at all?"
Cluesman: "It is actually. A lot of other (vaccination) sites have seen smaller numbers, so we didn't quite know what to expect here."
Erdahl: "I would guess the $100 gift card, when you're going out the fair, doesn't hurt."
Jason: "Yeah, definitely. I mean, that's a lot of corndogs you can get, but also the fact that Pfizer was FDA approved is kind of at the forefront of a lot of conversations."
But that's not where the conversations stopped. Several people at the vaccination had a variety of motivations, with many explanations going deeper than the shot itself.
Erdahl: "What brought you in?"
Cluesman: "Work, I work at Fairview over at Riverside, but I didn't do it just for them, I wanted to be a better human. I had been kind of holding off because I did have COVID in March and got through it really well. Unfortunately that doesn't happen for everybody."
For Brandy Grell, the answer was much more personal.
"I want to hug my daughter, and she is kind of adament to not see me until I have the shot," Grell said.
On top of that, Brandy has an October trip planned to see her other daughter in New York City, where a Broadway show and even a meal out requires proof of vaccine.
Brandy Grell: "That's a problem for me, so I choose them. No matter what the politics on either side are, no matter what I feel about it, I choose them."
Erdahl: "What was the hesitation for you?"
Grell: "Health reasons. I had been in a car accident last year and had a year where I was kind of not doing well. My hesitation was, if I got the shot, would I have any issues afterwards? I'm back being healthy and walking and talking and driving and so I was just concerned. I hope that this goes really well, I'm actually quite scared."
But a funny thing happened once Grell made her way inside the vaccination site. The nurses put her at ease and her anxious feeling didn't stick.
"I didn't even feel the shot," Grell said, after getting her shot. "It was simple, really, really simple."
A $100 gift card may be the motivator for some, but for others, the peace of mind is priceless.
"It just feels really good to just be done," Grell said. "I have one more (shot) but it just feels really good to just stop thinking about it every day, all day. It is a pressure. Should I get it? Should I not? Now I just don't have to worry about it."
If you're interested in getting a COVID vaccination at the State Fair, keep in mind, the shots are only available inside the North Side Events Center on the far north end of the fairgrounds.
If you're concerned about planning your trip or timing your shot, you are encouraged to schedule an appointment before you go. Click here to find available times.