As reported in a Star Tribune story earlier this week, the wait for a small business to get a booth at the Minnesota State Fair doesn't have to take decades.
It only took several weeks to several months for small business owners Jay Dillon of Yardbird patio furniture and Lauren VanScoy of Essence One aromatherapy to get accepted this year. But it took John Clauson of Borgil Enterprises 30 years
Dillon and VanScoy are both Minnesotans and Clauson lives in New Mexico when he's not traveling the country going from fair to fair. The dramatically different wait times begs the question--Do Minnesotans get a leg up when applying that non-residents don't?
Jim Sinclair, deputy general manager of the Minnesota State Fair, says no. "We do not make judgments of any kind about those who submit license registration requests and we have no interest in names, addresses or other affiliations," Sinclair said in an email. "This exposition cannot and does not selectively discriminate for or against registrants on the basis of from where they come or base its license assignments on from where their product or service may originate."
Nonetheless, 74% of non-food/beverage concessionaires and 70% of food/beverage concessionaires at the fair are Minnesota residents, according to Sinclair.
So why does the fair accept one small business over another? It's all about the product mix at the fair. It's unlikely that a food vendor applicant wanting to sell hot dogs will get a green light due to the number hot dogs and Pronto Pups vendors already operating. But if someone wants to sell adult and kids' fashion belts made from recycled seat belts, it's safe to say that few other fair vendors are already selling them.
Non-food entrepreneurs who want to scout out the possibilities of being at next year's state fair may want to take a look to see how many other vendors are already selling something similar. Even if another vendor or two are doing so, that's not grounds for refusal. Sinclair said that the fair encourages competition.
Few potential vendors ever request specific placement on the fairgrounds, but the most likely placement for a new non-food vendor is in the Grandstand. It's the largest exhibit facility on the fairgrounds and houses the highest number of concessionaires. "It will naturally experience the greatest level of exhibit turnover from year to year," Sinclair said.