With fewer COVID-19 restrictions and more relaxed border crossings, a strong Canadian contingent has returned to the North Dakota State Fair.

The annual event, which started back in 1966, is hosted in Minot every year, which is around a three-hour drive southeast of Weyburn. It began last Friday and runs until July 30.

"Before COVID, we had lots of Canadians that would come down," said North Dakota State Fair Manager Renae Korslien. "And you know I'm not saying we're back there yet...you know people are still cautious, but yes there are several of them that are back."

"And even the hotels have talked about (it). Canadians have definitely been coming down and they're staying two, three days or all fair, so it's very good," she said.

The festivities had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and few if any Canadians were able to go down last year due to COVID border restrictions.

Of the Canadians who do typically attend the fair, the bulk of them are from Saskatchewan, Korslien said.

"That's exactly where they come from," she said. "We always have a lot that come from the Estevan area. All the way up to Regina, Moose Jaw...that's our area for sure."

She said there are a number of attractions at the fair that draw Saskatchewan residents to North Dakota every July.

"I think they love our country western music," laughed Korslien. "And they like our rock concerts too, but they love the grandstand, they love that entertainment." 

"But you know a lot of the vendors, we have about 600 vendors that sell different products, and they too say that the Canadians are great shoppers and like to buy and take back, so I think they like everything," she continued. "We certainly are thankful for the Canadians that come down and we hope you continue (to). We'll be open until midnight Saturday night."

In total, Korslien said the fair usually attracts anywhere from 280,000 to 300,000 people every year.