Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vendors Aren't Only Ones Who Make Money When Fair Comes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vendors Aren't Only Ones Who Make Money When Fair Comes

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, Clay County Line correspondent

James and Siegrid Lafratta pulled into the Clay County Agricultural Fairgrounds Sunday in a recreational vehicle, ready to spend the next two weeks at the county fair.

But the Lafrattas aren't carnival junkies on vacation. They're working at the 10-day event, which began Thursday, just as they have almost every year since the fair began in 1986.

"We've been to 18 or 19 of them," James Lafratta said. "I can't remember if we came the first year or the second year it started, but we've come every year since then."

He and his wife own Perfection Confection, a business they operate out of an enclosed trailer selling cotton candy, candy apples, soft drinks and other county fair fare.

Though he and his wife have to compete with several other similar concession operators at the fair, as well as vendors that sell a broader variety of food, Lafratta said they always look forward to returning the next year.

"It's grown a lot since the early years," he said. "We used to sell hundreds [of candy apples and cotton candy]. Hopefully, we'll sell in the thousands this year."

But while they're in Clay County, the Lafrattas won't just be taking in money from the sale of their products.

They and numerous other fair vendors and midway operators, who set up a motor home and camper village on the fairgrounds during their stay, will also be spending money with local businesses on things like gasoline, groceries, auto repairs and other goods and services.

"The fair brings in a lot of people to the county every year and they spend a lot of money here," said Joan Bazley, Clay County fair association manager.

Bazley said she went to the county fair as a regular spectator the first couple of years after it started. But she was quickly recruited by the founding fathers of the fair to help manage the annual event.

"I don't think any of us thought it would grow as much as it has," she said. "People come from all over Northeast Florida, and it's not uncommon to have people coming from Georgia."

More than 100,000 people are expected to visit the fairgrounds during this year's event, which features more than 200 vendors, including amusement rides and carnival games, concession stands, arts and crafts displays and agricultural, livestock and horticulture exhibits. …

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