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Oklahoma State Fair Could See 'Trump Bump' Due To Candidate's Visit

Donald Trump speaks during a New Hampshire town hall meeting on August 19th, 2015 at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
Michael Vadon
Donald Trump speaks during a New Hampshire town hall meeting on August 19th, 2015 at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

The Oklahoma State Fair could see a noticeable economic boost from Friday's visit by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

The billionaire real estate mogul and television personality plans to speak at 5:30 p.m. at the Bandshell Stage in the northeast corner the fairgrounds. There's no cost to attend the campaign rally other than the normal cost of a state fair ticket.

"State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City), who's helping to organize things, said earlier this week that 5,000 people had signed up to go to the speech at the State Fair," said The Journal Record's managing editor Adam Brooks. "People who come will also probably ride a few rides and buy some food, so it should be a good deal for the fair."

Scott Munz, the Oklahoma State Fair's Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, told The Journal Record's Brian Brus the fair is working with Oklahoma City police, Trump's security detail, and a private security firm to keep disruptions during the polarizing candidate's visit:

“In my 27 years, I can’t remember a presidential candidate coming through,” Munz said. “We’ve had sitting presidents visit, and there’s always minor politicians who come through. Nobody of the magnitude of a presidential hopeful. Obviously this brings attention to the fair, although there will be some naysayers – Donald Trump is not universally liked. But he’s got a message. He’s running for president. “It’s just another day at the fair,” Munz said. “Will it be busy? Certainly. Will there be challenges? Certainly. But we’re prepared and we’ll handle them.”

Trump has been outspoken on immigration issues, and Latin American groups plan to hold a protest of his visit. The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also plans to condemn Trump for what they say is his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Trump is the second presidential candidate to visit Oklahoma. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) spoke to energy leaders at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association earlier this month, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina plans to do the same on Tuesday.

Oklahoma has earned a reputation as the "reddist of the red states," having cast its electoral votes for the Republican nominee in every presidential contest since 1968. The GOP has carried over 60 percent of the popular vote every year since 2000. Even with a virtual lock on carrying the state next year, there are advantages to Republicans who campaign here.

"Oklahoma is now one of 13 states that has a primary on Super Tuesday, which is coming up in March," Brooks said. "So even though the general election is likely to go red in November, March could be a big step toward deciding who the nominee will be."

Nathan Vandewarker, left, and Zach Stoever turn hot dogs at The Bacon Habit, a food booth owned and operated by Vandewarker and his wife, Amber.
Credit Molly Fleming / The Journal Record
The Journal Record
Nathan Vandewarker, left, and Zach Stoever turn hot dogs at The Bacon Habit, a food booth owned and operated by Vandewarker and his wife, Amber.

Bacon Bonanza Among Fair Fare

As Shortey alluded to, there's plenty for fair-goers to indulge in if they can't or aren't interested in catching a glimpse of a presidential candidate. From the traditional staples like corn dogs and funnel cakes, to this year's more eclectic offerings like fried coffee and a bacon-wrapped donut burger, the State Fair is the place to dabble in deep-fried decadence.

Tons - literally tons - of slide sides of pork will be sold by The Bacon Habit. In their fifth year at the Oklahoma State Fair, the California couple who runs it wrapped everything from corn-on-the-cob to hot dogs in 2,500 pounds of bacon, according to The Journal Record's Molly Fleming:

“We’ve been well-received,” Nathan [Vandewarker] said. “Our efforts are grossing 200 percent more now than when we started.”

The Bacon Habit will stop at four shows between July and October. In the off-season, Nathan works in his family’s propane business and his wife is a math teacher. They would like to pick up a couple of additional shows, but they have to be large enough to make their efforts profitable.

"They said they have to be profitable," Brooks said. "They have to do really well because vendors pay $4 per square foot, and they have to give 20 percent of their proceeds to the fair."

The fair's senior concessions manager Suzy Cason said food vendor applicants are required to provide references, which she checks to make sure they've done other large events. The Oklahoma State Fair can see as many as 80,000 people per day.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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