The key to a bustling fair booth, designed to attract the attention of thousands, appears to have two main elements -- prizes and personality.
Both were present Tuesday at the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 653 where the guys behind the booth said their good looks were a big part of the overall draw.
"We're all married and we'll deny it," said booth worker Rick Milbratch.
The men represent workers in Brainerd and Baxter at Cub Foods, SAVE Foods, Super One Foods and the Crosby SuperValue. It's the union's seventh year with a fair booth. To say they were an animated group would be an understatement.
"You can only go so far on good looks," said Ron Zwieg, union president.
They called out to the passing public like any good fair barker, telling them about prizes, including free groceries. They pulled rubber chickens from a freezer full of meat. They sold chances for a meat-filled freezer with all proceeds going to the lakes area Lutheran Social Services.
They told passers-by a slotted spoon prize was so cool it may already be on eBay. It's utility uses included solid waste skimmer. During a past fair they offered a semi-automatic dishwasher, which was actually a flat sponge that expanded when exposed to water.
Zwieg said the booth allows them to promote their members, provide a community service for LSS and thank consumers.
Buried under a full costume and makeup on a sultry day one for the fair, Wally the Clown was not worried about the heat.
"It's so much fun," he said of being at the union booth.
"The kissing booth opens in five minutes or whenever the line starts," Wally the Clown told fair-goers. No one lined up. Maybe it was the heat. But they did line up in steady numbers to sign for a chance at the free groceries.
"Don't miss out on this action," Zwieg told people nearby the booth. "This is the hottest booth at the fair."
Milbratch said: "If you have to push and shove to get in here -- do it."
But they drew the line at biting.
There are about 175 booths at the Crow Wing County Fair. Every inch of booth space was filled. Year in and year out, fair-goers march through the buildings -- learning about organizations, picking up free offerings from businesses and even getting their blood pressure tested.
Carey Brusseau and Tom Simon were busy putting together the Mills Fleet Farm booth. They were stopped numerous times as people asked when they would be ready to give out the free T-shirts.
"I've got every T-shirt I think they've had in the last 15 years," said Bob Peterson, Hackensack.
This year's version is a dark green. Brusseau said booth offers free samples, prizes, and, of course, the T-shirts.
"You've got the T-shirts?" a fair-goer asked.
"Not yet," Brusseau said. The booths were still an hour away from an official opening. Fair-goers spin a prize wheel at the booth. Brusseau said the line to take a turn can run to the end of the building. The booth offers allows them to promote the business and provide customer service, Brusseau said.
For Jim Tousignant, Edward Jones Investments, the fair booth offers access to a sheer volume of people not available to a business in any other setting.
The fair attracts all socio-economic groups, retirees, young parents, millionaires and blue-collar workers. Tousignant said they have tried giving away dinners, gift baskets and grills. But the clear winner is a dollar tree worth $50.
Tousignant said: "People like good old legal tender."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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