How Vendors Get a Spot at the State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa – Vendors at the Iowa State Fair pay a certain percentage back to the fair each year.

According to Manager CEO of the Iowa State Fair, Gary Slater, food vendors pay a 17.5 percent to the fair, while merchandise vendors pay 15 percent. Food and alcoholic beverage vendors pay 21 percent and just alcohol vendors pay 25 percent.

However, the percentages quickly add up. According to Marketing Director for the state fair, Mindy Williamson, in 2016 vendors paid $15,231,790 to the state fair.

Slater said vendors are required to apply for a spot at the fair.

“We don’t want to duplicate what we already have here. As long as a vendor does a good job and produces a good product and has a great following from the fair goers, we ask them back every year. New and improved different foods are always something that catches the eye of the concessions department,” Slater said.

Eric Campbell’s family has been serving food at the fair since 1920.

Campbell said it is all about passion and reinventing your product to keep state fair goers happy.

“It takes the love of being in the food operation and the food concession business. There is a lot of hard work out here, and if it were easy everybody would do it. And it’s just not that case,” Campbell said.

Campbell has 11 booths at the fair, all of which he pays 17.5 percent each to the state fair.

The state fair is always looking for a new item that the clients will enjoy.

"There have been some new vendors they brought in this year, especially in the south end, midway and other areas. So, they do have other vendors come in. But it is usually a long waiting list because this is a very good fair," Campbell said.

Slater said the fair looks for uniqueness when it comes to new vendors and food. They don’t want repeats.