Profits don’t come easy at state fair

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FALCON HEIGHTS — The Minnesota State Fair draws nearly 2 million visitors every summer so the heavy foot traffic makes it a choice location for nearly 800 businesses hawking everything from corn dogs to tractors. But officials and vendors say big profits don’t come easy.

There’s a popular myth that food vendors earn a year’s worth of income in 12 days.

“You get a food booth at the fair, you spend the rest of the year counting your money and waiting for the next fair. That’s just really not true,” Dennis Larson, who oversees the fair’s food and beverage vendors, said.

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Businesses pay a hefty cost to be there. Vendors pay the fair 15 percent of their food sales and 18.5 percent of their beer sales. There are also expenses for labor, supplies, taxes and other costs.

“The reality is a typical or medium booth here will do about $55,000 gross in sales. But that’s gross,” Larson said. “They have to pay sales tax. They have to pay us 15 percent. A good operator could bring home maybe 25 percent … so he’s going to make a few thousand dollars. You’re not going to live on that.”