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State fair vendors' profits affected by rising fuel and food costs

Although gas prices have decreased after hovering at the $4 mark for weeks, food prices continue to rise. As the Ohio State Fair opened its doors Wednesday WOSU found out how rising fuel and food costs affect carnival vendors' bottom lines.

It's not quite 11 o'clock in the morning and Ohio State fairgoers are already sampling concessions along what the fair calls the "food highway." A worker at the Deluca Food Services stand, which offers Italian style items, opens boxes of supplies to get ready for the fair's opening day.

Deluca Food Services, based in Youngstown, travels to fairs as far east as Boston and as far south as Miami, Florida. The company transports everything on trailers that use diesel fuel which costs in some places $5 a gallon.

"Majorly, majorly. It's made a huge burden on the business."

That's Rick Pachelle's reaction to how rising fuel and food prices affect his business. He said food costs have increased this year by as much as 20 percent. And profits, well, they've declined by as much as 40 percent. But Pachelle said they're trying hard to not to pass the increase along to customers.

"We're trying to hold everything down as low as we can just because we want to make sure when the fairgoer does come they're able to afford to be here," he said.

Pachelle said he does not think he's the only one juggling higher costs and lower profits. He said fairgoers are feeling the pinch as well.

"People are still coming in the gate but they're just not spending the money like they normally would," Pachelle said.

Maggie Lombardi, owner of Maggie's Concessions travels, but not all over the country. Lombardi, who's a mom and works with her retired father, stays within a 40 mile radius of her home in Plain City.

She said they work a couple of balloon rallies and street fairs and of course, the Ohio State Fair. Lombardi has two stands - one for lemonade and one for ice cream sundaes. She said the price for everything, even bags of ice, has gone up.

"You know it affects the bottom line. We've tried not to raise our prices this year. Here and there we have but the main prices we've tried to keep down because the economy's down and you want people to be able to afford your product," he said. Lombardi said the last event she worked had a good turnout, and she expects the same for the Ohio State Fair.

"Hopefully with the state fair you'll see a lot more people come out if they're not going to be traveling going on vacation because of gas prices," she said.

Not far from Lombardi's booth is a funnel cake and waffle stand. A worker breaks up clumps of powdered sugar in a sifter preparing to put the finishing touch on the freshly fried treats. Pam Radabaugh works for Arnan Concessions. She said in addition to the funnel cakes, they, too run a lemonade stand. When asked if higher gas and food prices affect them Radabaugh had a lot to say.

"Oh yeah. With the toppings and flour and the sugar. All that has gone up. The topping itself has gone up I'd say by 30 percent from last year. The flour? It's doubled just about. It makes it harder. And then we have a lemon shake trailer. And that one has definitely doubled just for the lemons itself. And that makes people have to raise their prices up which hurts other people as well as us," Radabaugh said. Nearing the end of the "food highway" is yet another lemonade stand.

A worker shakes up fresh lemonade. The sign behind her reads, $1.50, same size, smaller price.

Greg Adkins runs the lemonade stand. He said he's noticed the price of lemons going up, but he said they keep the price low to please the customers.

"I've been here with Carol for ten years and we started out at $1. We still sell our lemon shakes for a $1.50. And we just want to beat the competitor," Adkins said.

And beat the competitor they do. Just down from their lemon shake stand is another lemonade booth same size cups but a heftier price $3.50.