Inflation impacts American staple: State Fair food costs

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Inflation hits State Fairs

Many State Fair concessionaires have been forced to raise their food prices to offset their wholesale costs.

Fair season is in full swing in many states across the country, and it’s one of the first normal years for state fairs since the pandemic. One of the largest and most popular State Fairs happens in Des Moines, Iowa. The Iowa State Fair was first held in 1854 and is deep-rooted in tradition. 

From the rides, to the agriculture, the iconic Iowa State Fair brings in big crowds every year from coast to coast. But, Iowa State Fair Manager and CEO Gary Slater says it’s the food that’s always a hit for fair-goers. 

"Food is the number one thing that people say they come to the Iowa State Fair for – about 70% of the people," said Slater. 

But, fair-goers will probably spend a bit more at the fairgrounds on food thanks to inflation. The classic fair food like corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and more are all part of the State Fair experience for many, but those snacks are all costing a bit more than previous years. 

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Corn dogs frying up for fair-goers. (Madison Scarpino/Fox News)

In July, the costs of everything from eggs, margarine, flour, butter and coffee went up 20 to almost 40%, and those ingredients are used in the majority of fair food. For a lot of concessionaires, the 11-day Iowa State Fair is everything to their business.

July 2022 year-over-year food inflation statistics. (Fox Business)

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"It’s very important to a lot of people’s livelihoods. Many concessionaires have said ‘I put my kids through college because of the Iowa State Fair, wouldn’t have been able to do that on my income the rest of the year.’"

Eric Campbell’s business Campbell’s Concessions has ten corn dog stands at the Iowa State Fair that have been in the family since 1954.

One of Campbell Concession’s ten corn dog stands at the Iowa State Fair. (Madison Scarpino/Fox News)

"The Iowa State Fair is 75% of our business and our annual income," said Campbell.

Campbell says between supply chain issues and inflation, most ingredients are around 30% higher right now, and that has to trickle down to customers. This year, all of Campbell's fair food went up by fifty cents to a dollar.

Fair workers spend all day long hand dipping corn dogs. (Madison Scarpino/Fox News)

"We don’t want to raise our prices for our customers, but the only way we can stay and survive in this business is we have to raise the prices to offset," said Campbell.

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But Campbell says, it hasn’t stopped these big crowds from buying their staple corn dog. 

One of the many rides the 2022 Iowa State Fair has set up on the fairgrounds. (Madison Scarpino/Fox News)

"We’re Midwesterners, we don’t complain too much. At the end of the day, I think they expect it, and I think our price structure is pretty fair, and they know that, because we’ve been very very busy the last four days," said Campbell. 

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Thankfully, the Iowa State Fair didn’t actually raise ticket prices this year. Slater says the fair regularly brings in around $100 million each year. 

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