State Fair Samples Sell Products

State Fair Samples Sell Products

State Fair Samples Sell Products

Nebraska State Fairgoers experienced a buffet of flavors from buttery toffee to spicy mustard at GROW Nebraska’s 2019 State Fair Store.

Fifty-four GROW Nebraska businesses participated that year, and many of them boosted their sales through offering free product samples.

Barb Mapes, owner of Barb’s Buttery Toffee, enjoyed watching customers enjoy samples of her buttery toffee during several days at this year’s fair.

“The more people taste it, the more likely they will buy it,” Barb said.

She makes her buttery toffee in a commercial kitchen in Crete. The almond and pecan buttery toffee flavors are always hot sellers for state fairgoers seeking a sweet treat.

For companies looking to launch a new product, the Nebraska State Fair crowd is the perfect arena to test the waters. Jenna Borer, niece of Gold Dust Kettle Corn owner Mike Lagsding, worked at this year’s fair to test out a new BBQ-flavored popcorn.

“This one has really caught people’s attention,” Jenna said of the new flavor. “It’s neat to see people’s reactions.”

Many taste testers purchased bags of the popcorn after sampling the new flavor.

James Gustafson said he has provided samples of Lincoln-based Herbal Gatherings mustard at the state fair for more than 10 years.

“To come out here in the middle of the state, it’s a great resource for us,” James said. “It helps us meet a lot of people in a short amount of time.”

A few state fair attendees stopped by to encourage friends to try the mustard after they had sampled it at previous state fairs.

“People are hesitant to pick up a new product, so when you let them try it, it changes the whole trajectory,” James said.

While giving samples, business owners can also boost sales by suggesting new ways to use their product and offering recipe ideas.

While giving samples, business owners can also boost sales by suggesting new ways to use their product and offering recipe ideas.

Cheryl Hughes, owner of HR Poppin’ Snacks in Gibbon, has been sampling her flavored popcorn at the Nebraska State Fair for more than 20 years. She and her husband, Gary, sell their popcorn in more than 135 flavors at stores around the country.

“I firmly believe in samples,” Cheryl said. “They try it, they buy it.”

This year, Cheryl sampled 14 flavors at the state fair including new flavors Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Cookie Crumble, Cheddar Pretzel (made with Dot’s pretzels) and Monster Cookie Dough.

“Most generally, sampling sells your product,” she said.

The GROW Nebraska State Fair Store was made possible by the following sponsors: Kracklin’ Kirks Fireworks, LIPS Printing Service, Wynk, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Nebraska Arts Council, ATC Communications, Lundeen Isaacson Insurance, Hay Bale Banners LLC, Dorothy Lynch, Touch of Class and Gary’s Quick Steak.

Sign Up Now To Boost Sales at GROW’s State Fair Store

Sign Up Now To Boost Sales at GROW’s State Fair Store

Sign Up Now To Boost Sales at GROW’s State Fair Store

Want to promote your product in front of more than 300,000 people?

GROW Nebraska members will once again have the opportunity to showcase and sell their work at GROW’s pop-up store at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island Aug. 23-Sept. 2.

Members are encouraged to register now to display, offer samples and sell products at the 11-day fair. GROW Nebraska staff, members and volunteers take turns working at the store, which makes it convenient for small business owners.

Several past participants plan to return in 2019 because of the stellar results the store has produced for their businesses.

Jacque Cranson, owner of Small Town Famous in Hastings, joined GROW Nebraska just prior to the state fair in 2018. She knew it would be the perfect setting to sell the “Devaney, Osborne, some other guys, Frost” t-shirt that she created.

That shirt proved to be her best seller at the state fair. She also sold other t-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, hoodies, hats and earrings to generate $20,000 in sales during the 11-day fair.

“We had a really good experience,” Jacque said. “Everyone was crazy about red and white stuff and state of Nebraska items.”

Jacque said as in individual business owner, it’s hard to secure a space in the Pinnacle Bank Expo Building at the state fair. Plus, with an individual booth, she would be responsible for manning the booth the entire time.

During the 2018 state fair, Jacque was 8 months pregnant, so she especially enjoyed GROW staff and volunteers working at the fair. She checked in each day and restocked as needed.

“I didn’t have to sit and work all day,” Jacque said. “GROW did all advertising, and they are good about promoting and getting people to come over and look at the clothes.”

John Bell, owner of The Design Farm, in Gothenburg also appreciated how easy the GROW staff made it to sell his 93-county print and t-shirts at the state fair.

“GROW made it very easy on me,” he said. “All I had to do was supply my product to the GROW Nebraska booth. I didn’t visit the booth, but whoever was working the state fair did a good job. Next thing I knew it was over, and I was paid on what I sold.”

In 2014, John sketched a unique piece of art featuring historical license plate designs from each of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

“That particular piece is tied to Nebraska, and everyone understands the license plate system,” John said. “It’s pretty popular with the clientele that would come to the Nebraska State Fair.”


While a hands-off approach works for some business owners, the state fair also offers other business owners a chance to connect with customers, get feedback and give food samples to encourage sales not only during the fair but all year long.

GROW Nebraska members can sign up to be part of GROW’s state fair pop-up store now through July 31. Business owners may also sign up to demonstrate or offer food samples at the store, so be sure to register early to choose the best demo days. The fee is just $159 and includes prime space in the Pinnacle Bank Expo Building.


Story by Kristine Jacobson,