Money and Business

Vendors optimistic for big sales at Santa Barbara County Fair

Event draws more than 150,000 potential customers

Vendors hoping for big business at Santa Barbara County Fair

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Fair kicked off its five-day run in Santa Maria on Wednesday.

The popular annual event always features a number of staple attractions, such as the carnival, entertainment, livestock and exhibits.

Another big draw for fairgoers are the vendors, who come to the Santa Maria Fairpark annually to sell a wide variety of food and merchandise.

For the dozens of vendors at the fair, they are here to try and cash in.

"There is the potential," said Santa Maria Fairpark CEO Richard Persons. "It's kind of amazing how much money you can make selling corn dogs, one corn dog at a time. The vendors who are good at it, do quite well."

One vendor who has sold a lot of corn dogs at the fair is West Coast Weenies, which has two stands located in the Fairpark.

"We do well," said Nathan Marcus of West Coast Weenies. "Since we've been here, the locals really support us. We try and give a great, quality product and in return they recognize it and they come back."

Marcus said his business has been in operation for 69 years. This marks the third straight year the business has come to Santa Maria.

"We plan on being here for a long time," said Marcus. "It happened to work out for us and it was a good fit for us and since we've been here, it's been great and we plan on being here for a long time."

West Coast Weenies is like most of the vendors, who travel around the western United States, attending fairs and other similar events.

"This is how I make my living, going from fair to fair," said vendor Luis David. "The bigger the better. Every weekend I'm in a different part of the state."

The Bakersfield resident operates Be Lovely California. It sells t-shirts, handbags, sandals and other novelty items. 

David said this was his first trip to the Santa Barbara County Fair.

"I heard it's really busy and there's a lot of people here," said David. "That's what brought us here."

Most vendors said Wednesday's opening day was decent start to what will hopefully be a successful five-day run.

"The first day, the opening day is tough because it's the first day, but we sell a little bit," said hat vendor Mario Guzman.

Guzman added the best sales will come naturally when the bigger crowds start to come out.

"The last three days are going to be fantastic," said Guzman. "The last three days in Santa Maria, there are a lot of people and the people buy."

First-time Santa Barbara County Fair vendor James Wilkins just arrived after spending time at the massive San Diego County Fair.

The five-week long event draws nearly 2 million people. While this fair is much smaller, Wilkins is feeling confident about his prospects.

"Yesterday went good," said the pet supplies salesman. "It's the first day. I think the crowd was great."

Like Guzman, Wilkins is excited about what lies ahead.

"Any fair events, Friday, Saturday, Sunday are the busiest days because most people get off of work and they come here and enjoy the weekend here," said Wilkins.

According to Persons, each vendor pays a fee to rent a space on the property.

"Many of the commercial displays, the "slicer dicer" type of folks, pay a flat fee for their space," said Persons. "The other types of things, the food and beverage that take a lot more of our energy and water and need more trash hauling pay us a percentage of their gross sales."

More than 158,000 people attended the fair last year. Most of the fairgoers will likely spend at least a few dollars, either on food or merchandise, so there is definitely good money to be made.

One way the fair helps vendors is by reducing duplication of similar products.

"We don't want every stand in the place to be selling baseball caps and a corn dog," Persons said. "We want a good mix of BBQ, dessert items and so on in order to give people a great variety throughout the whole fairgrounds."

The fair's commitment to variety is a big reason many sellers, such as West Coast Weenies, keep coming back.

"At the fair you have to find a way to standout because there is a lot of duplication at certain fairs," said Marcus. "This fair does a good job of not over-duplicating items or products, but most fairs generally have a lot of duplications."

The Santa Barbara County Fair will run through Sunday, July 15.

For more information, visit the Santa Barbara County Fair website.


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