Fair vendors keep cool while selling their wares
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 22, 2014 6:18PM
Robert Phillips of Porter Township gets information on roofing from Bill Hunt, project manager for Ideal Roof Solutions, Tuesday in the commercial building at the Porter County Fair. | Sujn-Times Media
Updated: August 24, 2014 6:33AM
VALPARAISO — From gourmet food to bathroom remodeling, the commercial building at the Porter County Fair is a one-stop shop for just about anything.
Clothing, jewelry, sweets — it’s all available, and that’s not to mention the free stuff, like candy, pens and refrigerator magnets that vendors hand out to entice the public.
On Tuesday, when the temperature outside was sweltering, the commercial building had another freebie, and that wasn’t just handshakes from Porter County politicians getting the word out before the November general election; it was air-conditioning.
There were shoppers, too, like Robert Phillips of Porter Township, who bought windows from a vendor at the fair about seven years ago. This time around, he was looking for roofing.
“That’s why I came. I’ve got to add gutters and a new roof,” he said, adding shopping at the fair has a number of advantages. “It saves a lot of walking around and driving into town, and I like to stay with more local people. I like to keep the money in the county.”
Bill Hunt, project manager for Ideal Roof Solutions, has had a booth at the fair for four years. The booth generates three or four roofing contracts a year, he said, and is good for name recognition for his company.
It takes patience, though, to find customers.
“(Phillips) is not here to get free pens or candy. That’s what you get a lot of at the fair,” Hunt said.
At a nearby booth, John Bennett asked everyone who walked by if they wanted a free Bible. Bennett is a Scripture distribution chairman for Gideon International — think of the maroon Bibles in hotel nightstands — and has been coming to the fair since 2009.
Gideon works with about 40 churches in Porter County.
“In the course of the fair, I would say we give out about 1,500 (Bibles),” he said, taking a break to offer up free Bibles to passers-by.
Three kids stopped by his booth and while there were no takers, Bennett showed them the features of a small, orange children’s Bible he was also giving away.
“We haven’t been able to distribute through the schools in quite some time, so this distribution is geared to the kids,” he said, adding he likes his shift at the fair. “It’s meeting the people and being able to pass out the Scripture to them.”