State Fair Secrets: Placing Fair Exhibits ‘Like A Puzzle’
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s no surprise that the food booths get all the attention at the Minnesota State Fair, but did you know there are more than 1,300 booths and exhibits at the fair that have nothing to do with food? And it’s one woman’s job to pick and place those exhibits.
Pam Simon grew up near the fair. In fact, she used to ride her bike through the fairgrounds. Never did she imagine she’d be working at the fair one day. But now, she is one of the most important people on staff.
Simon is exhibits and concessions manager. She’s the one who decides which exhibits get in, and where they go.
“It’s a big puzzle, and I work on it all year round,” Simon said. “Sometimes we turn the puzzle around a little, and make it look a little different.”
Most of the exhibits and vendors, especially the ones that have dedicated buildings, are there year after year. But many newcomers want in, as the Minnesota State Fair is the place to be.
“Everyone wants to be here because (our guests) are nice people, and we buy,” Simon said. “We buy more at this fair than (guests) typically do at any other fair.”
Vendors or other prospective businesses who want in fill out an application and usually face a three-year waiting list (only the State Fair doesn’t call it a waiting list).
Turnover isn’t exactly brisk. Just 60 new vendors were added this year to the total of 1,300. Simon says it’s about the right amount of change.
“We kind of sit on a line where we need a lot of tradition, but we also need to offer some new things to people, to let them know we’re changing too.”
As for changes to the 2013 Minnesota State Fair? Simon and her crew already are working on that. It’s an all-year process, but one she savors.
“There’s still some days I pinch myself as I drive into work, and I tell myself I have the best job in the world,” Simon said. “There’s always something new to plan. It doesn’t get boring.”