Del Mar Fair seeking vendors

Local businesses with new, innovative or one-of-a-kind products or services still have an opportunity to show their wares at the San Diego County Fair this summer.The fair's concessions department is accepting vendor applications through March 6.

"There is a perception you can't get into the fair," said Donna Ruhm, the fair's concessions manager. "It's not true. We really want to give opportunities to local businesses that have unique products or services."

Ruhm said she and her team strive to book a diverse mix of vendors, which helps them thrive, and keeps shoppers interested.

While usually the fair introduces 30 to 40 new vendors each year, this year, that number is up to 50 to 60. "We are seeing a lot of old-timers decide to not come back this year and last year as well," Ruhm said.

With the recession, one small financial concern can cause vendors to scale their operations back, she said.

Still, about 80 percent of the 500 vendors do come back, which shows how profitable the fair can be for them, Ruhm said.

"The fair has been a wind-fall for us," said Steve Raketich, co-owner of Backyard

Xscapes with Jamie Kocher, a wholesale landscaping supplier based in Sorrento Valley.

Raketich said he used to participate in home shows, but he stopped going after scoring a prominent spot at the fair because the 22-day event that draws more than 1 million was much more profitable and provided exposure to new, high-end customers.

Fair-goers are looking for value, Raketich said, so he offers sales and promotions not available in his store or online.

While he is scaling back his expectations for this year, even if he does half as much business as last year, Raketich said he would consider the show a success.

He recommended local businesses with interesting products try participating at the fair at least once, because otherwise "you don't know if you can be successful."

He also spoke very highly of the concessions department staff.

"They are so giving, so personal, any questions I have ... they have always been there."

Jewelry is the one product Ruhm said she has plenty of.

Before calling with questions, interested applicants should review the information at

www.sdfair.com/concessions

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