FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Gregg Clindt hardly had time to pause for a quick conversation with a TV journalist. The line at Perfect Pickle near the grandstand was long and the lunch rush was on. The scene was a far cry from what he saw 15 years ago, during his first fair, when his booth was in the food building.
"We're extremely fortunate. The amount of customers, the audience at the Minnesota State Fair, the majority of people come here to eat food and try different types of food that they can only get at the fair," Clindt said.
Just how fortunate? The State Fair welcomed two new food vendors to the get-together this year. Dennis Larson, who leads the fairs "choosing process," says the average is anywhere between two and six new vendors annually.
"It does become a competitive process based on the low turnover, very few openings each year," Larsen explained. He showed KARE 11 the file cabinet drawer in the administration building, packed and organized with color-coded file folders that held the applications of 500 prospective vendors on file.
Larson says the decision on who gets in is based on both booth location and food type. He says experience at mass events is also a key to becoming chosen, but offering something "on a stick" is not important.
Last year, Sweet Martha's Cookies grossed $2.2 million in sales; the average stand brought in around $55,000. Fifteen percent of the sales receipts go back to the fair in the form of rent payment.
A spot inside the gates can be huge. Just act Clindt. Two years ago, he quit his day job as an IT worker. His pickle product is taking off. It is now offered in bars and sports stadiums. "You get a loyal following and then word just spreads, they tell people, and...," Clindt said, with a smile.
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