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Good Question: What Do Vendors Pay To Be At The State Fair?

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Everywhere you look at the Minnesota State Fair there’s another vendor, a booth, a stand.

According to the fair, there are 1,200 to 1,300 licenses for businesses to operate for 12 days.

So how much does it cost for vendors to be at the fair?

“It depends on what they’re doing,” said Dennis Larson, license administration manager for the State Fair. Larson helps decide whether new food vendors or merchandise exhibitors are in or out.

If vendors are selling food, they don’t pay rent. Instead, they pay a commission. Food vendors pay 15 percent on every item sold. Beer and wine vendors pay an 18.5 percent commission.

If vendors aren’t selling food, the license structure gets a little complicated, but it’s all based on a measurement called “front foot.”

“Exposure is what it’s all about,” Larson said. “That’s the most critical cost.”

So if your booth is 10-feet wide facing a sidewalk or walkway, that’s 10 front feet.

The lowest rate is charged to “institutional exhibits,” such as political booths, nonprofits, organizations and schools. They pay $70 per front foot. A typical small booth has 10 feet, so it’s $700 for the whole fair.

The next rate is for exhibits. That’s for people who don’t do any retail sales, like the Renewal by Anderson people. You can’t sell, you can’t take deposits, but you can take orders. Exhibitors pay $90 per front foot.

If you are a “concession,” you sell non-food products or your take deposits for future delivery. For example, the Culligan Water display sells softeners and water displays. They pay the top fee — $105 per front foot.

Culligan has a large booth on the corner of two streets, so they pay close to $10,000 per fair.

Vendors also pay for their own water, sewer, electrical, and telephones.

They also have to buy advance tickets to the fair for all employees. Plus, at Culligan, they use cups for serving water, and they have to buy those cups from the State Fair. The manager said he expects to spend $10,000 this year just on cups.

The last category of vendor is the merchandise vendor. Typically, a vendor will pay 20 percent commission on merchandise and no rent. Even the grandstand musicians pay a cut: 10 percent on music sales, 20 percent on merchandise, according to Larson.

In all, the fair nets about $5 to $6 million on food and beer commissions, and $5 to $6 million on frontage fees.

“We have a lot of foot frontage,” laughed Larson.

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