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Alaska State Fair vendors each play a unique role

Zaz Hollander
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Bacon Bits, left, and Kevin Bacon sprint towards the finish during the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs event at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand and keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Bacon Bits, left, and Kevin Bacon sprint towards the finish during the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs event at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand and keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Airah Cude, 9, and Aurie Medina, 8, braved a ride on The Ejection Seat during the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Airah Cude, 9, left, and Aurie Medina, 8, braved a ride on The Ejection Seat during the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cavallo Equestrian Arts performance at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cavallo Equestrian Arts performance at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cavallo Equestrian Arts performance at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Cavallo Equestrian Arts performance at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Kaylee McKinney, 9, stands near the winning giant cabbages at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
The winning giant pumpkins were on display at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth
Kendra Duffy, Katrina McClure and Emily Gibson ride the Sizzler at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
Haylee Snegirev holds Sprout the purebred Nigerian dwarf goat, which belongs to Jaida Vroman, at right, at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Cabbage Fairies walk the midway at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The train ride needs some work at tthe Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
Victoria Wallace and Brandon Wallace visit the goats at the petting zoo at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair features a wide variety of event, exhibits and foods. The weather was mixed on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
Mary Steiert
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Aliyah Ciuz, from Anaheim, CA, tries out a hula-hoop at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Tenvjin Horsey, from Palmer, and his reindeer Scrappy won the Reserve Champion ribbon at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Haylee Snogirev, from Palmer, and her reindeer Oscar won a blue ribbon at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Ashleena Roberts, from Palmer, and her reindeer Benjamin won the Grand Champion ribbon at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK. Roberts is a member of the Pioneer Peak 4H Club in Palmer.
Bob Hallinen
Isolde Medema visits with a pair of calves in the petting zoo at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Ashleena Roberts, from Palmer, and her reindeer Benjamin won the Grand Champion ribbon at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK. Roberts is a member of the Pioneer Peak 4H Club in Palmer.
Bob Hallinen
Jeffrey Melendez photographs his 1-year old daughter Juliana with the giant pumpkins on display at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Jack Middleton, Baylee Middleton and Miles Middleton play the ring toss game at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK. The Middletons are from Wasilla, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Isolde Medema visits with a pair of calves in the petting zoo at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Jesse Kitson of Soldotna hangs on for 8 seconds in the bull riding competition of the rodeo Saturday, August 24, 2013 at the Alaska State Fair.
Shannon Greene
A bull rider comes out of the chutes during the rodeo Saturday, August 24, 2103, at the Alaska State Fair.
Shannon Greene
Billy Rutherford ropes a calf during the rodeo Saturday, August 24, 2103 at the Alaska State Fair.
Shannon Greene
Barrel rider Tamie Vickers of Chugiak gives her painted horse, Emmy, some attention before her ride Saturday, August 24, 2103 at the Alaska State Fair.
Shannon Greene
Dan Wagner at his Howling Wolf Furs booth at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 23, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Kelsey Ingram and two of his workers Sherri Mulhaney and Jennifer Bolinder pose for the photo at the Alaska Soda Jerk booth at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 23, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Tweedle Dum, played by Tyler Browning and other characters have a pie eating contest at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 23, 2013 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Lady Shriner Roberta Uhl walks the midway in the rain at the Alaska State Fair on Thursday, August 2013.
Bob Hallinen
3 year old Kali Guy from Wasilla rides the merry-go-round at the Alaska State Fair on Thursday, August 2013.
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Theresa Cooley, Aubrey Hickel and Katy Struempler enjoy the Tilt-A-Whirl at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Robin Struempler, Shaun Cooley and Jeannette Cooley enjoy the Tilt-A-Whirl at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Chris Williams and Rhyan Carinio sport new hairdos at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Willie Emry works the Gravitron ride for Golden Wheel Amusements at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013 in Palmer, AK. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Rain in the morning, sunshine in the afternoon and hail in the evening greeted fun seekers at the Alaska State Fair on Friday, August 21, 2013. 130821
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily New Mike Stephan and Travis Cooper rest against a tire of one of the Antique Power Club of Alaska's tractors as they wait for the kids to finish up in the petting zoo in the live stock barn at the Alaska State Fair on Thursday, August 2013.
Bob Hallinen
The fairgrounds are fairly unpopulated just before the opening of the fair Thursday, August 22. The view from one of the ferris wheels at the 2013 Alaska State Fair reveals the fairgrounds with the cloudy Chugach Mountains in the distance.
Shannon Greene
One of the competitors of the Lumberjack Show reacts after getting an early lead in the sawing contest at the 2013 Alaska State Fair, Thursday, August 22.
Shannon Greene
Sylvester was one of many gerbils to participate in the Elks Charity Rat Race at the 2013 Alaska State Fair, Thursday, August 22. The gerbils will be available for adoption after the fair.
Shannon Greene
Baby goats are an attraction at the Petting Zoo at the 2013 Alaska State Fair, Thursday, August 22.
Shannon Greene
First-day fair goers check out the King Tut: Artifacts from the Pharaoh's Tomb exhibit at the Don Sheldon Events Center Thursday, August 22, 2013. The Alaska State Fair runs through September 2.
Bill Roth
Karianne Oudman and Coleen Harrier unload vegetables for the Bushes Bunchs stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The vegetables will be cut up to make veggie packs with dipping sauce. Oudman is the farm manager for Bushes Bunchs and Harrier normally works in the fields but is running the produce part of the stand during the fair. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Gavin Korin enjoys some ice cream while the adults work on the Alaska Soda Jerk stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Ty Tobias, with the Southcentral Alaska Beekeepers Association judges honey at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The honey is judged on smell, taste, clarity, moisture content and presentation. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Jacob Bivens changes light bulbs on the Whirlwind ride at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Golden Wheel Amusement workers are putting the final touches on the rides for the fair opening. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Kelsey Ingram at his Alaska Soda Jerk stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Carol McNamara and Rachel Overby put up signs at McNamara's Kernal Mac's Popcorn stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Pat Tremaine, of Palmer, works on her table full of entries in the Crops, Herbs and Flowers competitions at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Tremaine won 161 ribbons last year at the fair. This year she will not have as many entries because of the warm weather some of the flowers bloomed early and the recent rains and moose ruined some of the plants. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Dave Anderson works on installing a light at the Porkey's Pork Chops stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Carol McNamara and Rachel Overby put up signs at McNamara's Kernal Mac's Popcorn stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Laura Bartholomae and Margaret Adsit put up signs at the Hoop N Hula Milk N Cookies stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Jacob Bivens changes light bulbs on the Whirlwind ride at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Golden Wheel Amusement workers are putting the final touches on the rides for the fair opening. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Tammie Kerby puts up metal signs fro sale at the Bering Sea Traders stand at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
Steve Manning works on getting his Steve & Son Sign booth in shape at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. The Fair opens on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at noon.
Bob Hallinen
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Bacon Bits, left, and Kevin Bacon sprint towards the finish during the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs event at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand and keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Bacon Bits, left, and Kevin Bacon sprint towards the finish during the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs event at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand and keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs performed at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. Lara McGinnis said the racing pigs "were back by popular demand keeping the crowd hog wild."
Bill Roth
Airah Cude, 9, and Aurie Medina, 8, braved a ride on The Ejection Seat during the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
Bill Roth

Think the lines are long for cream puffs and turkey legs?

Try the queue for a booth at the Alaska State Fair.

Some 475 vendors ply their wares at the fair, selling everything from Wax Hands to hot tubs, pottery to bowls of Korean Bi Bim Bop.

Every vendor proved to fair officials they brought something original to this massive outdoor shopping mall that sees 300,000 customers over a two-week period.

The fair uses a booth space application to fill holes when previous vendors decide to move on.

This year, the fair fielded 145 applications for everything but food. Officials managed to squeeze about 100 in. Forty people filed requests to sell food.

Zero made the cut.

Nobody bails on a food booth.

"This year there are no new food vendors. That gives you a pretty good idea," said Kelsey Ingram, an Anchorage bartender and waiter who operates The Soda Jerk booth at the fair. "Unless you have something really unique ..."



Big event of the year

Howling Wolf Furs is one of the lucky vendors with a new booth at the fair, and on the much-desired Purple Trail to boot.

Inside the Clam Gulch company's pristine white tent Friday, a $900 pair of mukluks fashioned from glossy black bear fur got lots of attention.

"I tell people they're Sasquatch," said Dan Wagner, whose wife Sue Moore makes the boots and everything else in the tent. "They go, 'Really??'"

Wagner said fur-lined baby booties are a big hit. Kids like the spare tails and marten faces on sale for about $5, Moore said.

Asked what inventory Wagner brought up from home, Moore rattles off a list: slippers, hats, tails, booties, mukluks.

Asked what kind of take the couple hope to leave the fair with? Moore demurred. Nobody likes to talk about money before it's made. But it's pretty clear the fair brings vendors a concentrated shot at an influx of cash.

Charity Folcik sells girly fashion -- hoodies, scarves and hand-knit headgear -- at her Alaska Chicks booth next to the Farm Exhibits barn. A pop soundtrack thumps over the determined crowing of a nearby rooster.

Folcik, who subleases space in a downtown Palmer business, snagged her booth three years ago.

"I like the fair because people come from all over. They come from Anchorage, Kenai. Normally, they wouldn't just come to my store," she said. "This is the biggest show of the year. Definitely wouldn't want to miss the Alaska State Fair."



She'll be the judge

Pamella Meekin, the fair's longtime vendor and exhibits manager, has presided over who's in and who's out for more than 20 years.

The fair uses the same standards for all booth applications, Meekin said: new non-food vendors are selected first with an eye to product originality and then to the order in which the application came. A committee weighs food vendors based on food-service experience and menu originality.

Nonfood vendors pay a $50 deposit and rates starting at $1,200 for an outdoor space.

The fair doesn't have to work for vendor applications. Vendors find the fair. The work's in managing vendors to keep a good booth balance, Meekin said.

Not long ago, sunglasses and wool sweaters started to overpopulate at the fair. These days, seems like there are a lot of hot tubs. Somebody must buy them, right?

"The economy can only support so much so you don't want to overrun, you don't want to have too many," Meekin said. "You kind of want to keep it where it fits with the fair."

The food list is a battleground. Of the 475 vendors at the fair, about 70 sell some kind of food or beverage.

Of course, Meekin said, it's possible that another food booth or two could sneak in if the fair's 300,000 visitors start to creep up. "But only if the food is original enough to add a vibrant addition."

Last year, just two new booths entered the rarified arena of fair food: The Reuben Haus, specializing in the hot corned beef sandwich, and The Soda Jerk, where counter staff in paper hats and bow ties sling liquid confections to a 1950s soundrack. Both had steady lines Friday.



Location, location, location

Fair officials say they try to give new vendors a good spot, but it really depends on which positions come empty.

One vendor noted that a previous location at the far end of the fairgrounds next to the farm barn proved a little problematic. Fair-goers who aren't fond of rabbits or root vegetables don't even know the Yellow Trail exists.

Folcik, who's on that trail, said she's kept her location so loyal customers can find her. But sometimes, the out-of-the-way trail poses problems.

"I still have a lot of people ask me, 'Where are you? I looked all over the fair!'"

Carrie McAllister, a massage therapist with three locations, is new to the fair this year. She isn't too worried about her spot on the Yellow Trail. Who can resist a relaxing massage after a footsore day fighting the crowds?

"People who have been walking for a while might be a little chilled from the weather if it's still raining," she said last week. "They just want to sit down and relax and have somebody work some of their kinks out."



Why do it?

People set up a booth at the fair for different reasons. Some run brick-and-mortar retail outlets but appreciate the hands-on publicity and outreach. For many small businesses, the fair presents a two-week shot at a nice chunk of cash.

Nonprofits and advocacy organizations make use of the crowds to sell a message.

Friends of NRA hands out free gun-safety literature and raffles firearms and sporting good shopping trips. People often come up wanting to argue over gun rights or the Second Amendment, said Marie Murdock, chairwoman of the group's Alaska state committee. She informs them that the nonprofit's mission is fundraising for shooting sports safety education.

"Of course, to get the message out it's a numbers game," said Murdock." The more people that come out the more we reach."

Then there's Hoop 'n Hula Milk 'n Cookies -- a cookie booth with a generous bent.

Dori McDannold, a Palmer-area massage therapist, yoga instructor and wilderness guide, started the booth to give back to the community. Customers choose from a dozen kinds of fresh-baked cookies. They can donate a share of their cookie receipts to eight different charitable causes -- recycling, hunger, families, renewable energy -- and then go hula-hoop off the extra calories.

McDannold said she donates about half her profits.

"We get a lot of repeat customers who say it's because of the cookie donation they come back," McDannold said.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

 


By ZAZ HOLLANDER
zhollander@adn.com