The Food Vendors’ Fight To Get Into The Minn. State Fair

FALCON HEIGHTS (WCCO) — Many Minnesotans wait all year for the State Fair food, but food vendors wait much longer just to get their business into the Great Minnesota Get Together. In fact, it’s a fierce competition.

According to State Fair License Administration Manager Dennis Larson, less than 1 percent of all applicants ever make it on the grounds.

“It has a reputation as being the biggest food fair in North America,” said Larson.

This year, out of a waiting list of 576 food vendors, only five of them were accepted into the state fair.

Larson said with high demand, and low turnover, he’s looking for businesses that stand out, a process that on average can take three to five years, but can range anywhere from days to decades.

“I kind of feel like that scene from the movies when the manager calls up the guy from the minor leagues and says come on down. It’s one of my most favorite phone calls,” he said. “The extreme is somebody who lost count after 20 years, and said, ‘my dad used to register before I started registering, and now we finally got in.'”

Chuck Lee, owner of Starberi Frozen Yogurt, said the call finally came this year, after a five year wait.

“Seems like eternity, but we finally got in,” said the Dallas, Texas business owner. “It is literally one of a kind, no where anywhere has anything like this.”

Karen Rutana said the same call last year meant her hot apple dumpling business, based out of Ohio, had risen to the top.

“I just fell off my chair, and got off the phone, and said to my husband, and I was shaking, literally, shaking, and said, ‘we got into Minnesota!'” she said.

The competition even stretches to the grandstand, where Linda Graham’s bottle cap art will soon display her lifelong dream for the very first time.

“I just about screamed,” she said, of that lucky phone call. “This is the very first time we have a booth, I’ve actually all my life I think it started when it was in the womb and my mother ate a corn dog, I’ve had the ambition of being at the Minnesota State Fair.”

It’s the same reason why Lee brought his business in from Texas.

“I feel really, really blessed,” he said.

Larson said he often dispels a myth for many applicants, who believe the Minnesota State Fair is a get rich opportunity. He says the average stand pulls in about $50,000 to $55,000 during the fair — before paying taxes and employees.

“It’s a good part-time job, is what we call it, or vacation fund, or ‘put your kids through college’ kind of money. It’s not ‘retire and count your money the rest of the year,'” he said.

Larson said, for most, it’s a full-time job touring fairs across the country, or second to their day job.

One more thing Larson said: it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a stick. Of the more than 300 food vendors at the fair this year, more than 60 items are on a stick.

“I’ve seen many things attempted to put on a stick, thinking they will get in,” said Larson. “It has to make sense to be on a stick, or why do it?”

  • Dan

    Thats all the MN State Fair is anymore, is food. Not much has changed for several years. Thats to bad. Texas State Fair completely outshines the MN fair. At least theres something there besides food…and it takes three days to see it all.

    • Mike

      I always find something of interest when I go. OK I admit I go mostly for the food selections. Love all the artwork on display also.

    • Mary Ann

      PLEASE – isn’t the Texas Fair about three weeks long? There are many events at the MN State Fair that change daily. A person could go there everyday and find something different to see and do. Open your eyes and stay out of the food court.

      • tom willard

        Exactly! If they were the exact same length, Minnesota still out does Texas by 49,000 people daily average attendance.

    • tom willard

      Go to Texas DAN! And try to get your facts in order before you shoot off ignorant and incorrect statements. Obviously you’re just a Forum Troll (coward), but I had to respond to this.

  • Minneapolis News Stories for Aug 24 2011 : Travel tips, hotels, restaurants, jobs and news | Travel 2 Minneapolis

    […] Spots?A 5.8 earthquake is mild by west coast standards, but on the east coast, it is weird stuff.The Food Vendors’ Fight To Get Into The Minn. State FairMany Minnesotans wait all year for the State Fair food, but food vendors wait much longer just to […]

  • annmartina

    Are applications from Minnesota businesses given first consideration?

    • Tolzy

      I don’t know, but they totally should be. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t give first consideration to Minnesotan businesses. Cuz guess what, Mr. Texas mentioned up there won’t be spending much of that $55,000 in our economy…

      Once they run out of Minnesotan applicants, then they should consider out-of-staters.

  • ripoff

    What a rip off. Over priced food…no wonder the vendors fight to get in on the great MN rip off. Hay family of 4, $60.00 just to walk in …and then get ripped off!!!

  • Jelser

    I know, me my wife and child was $36.00 for tickets then $12.00 to park. Everything is over priced!

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