Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2015

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Election rallies are a chance for vendors to make a buck

The masses of President Barack Obama supporters moved slowly toward the playing fields at Desert Pines High School, as vendors peddling all manner of gear supporting the president pitched their products to the crowd.

“I’m needy, not greedy. I’m not a Republican,” one man shouted.

Another vendor, Steven Ford, was selling merchandise with his friend. He said he arrived at 11 a.m. to stake out a spot.

“We’re just trying to make an honest dollar,” he said. "It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal."

Event officials sometimes ask them to move, Ford said, if they’re too close to the grounds.

“Their logic: Let’s play it safe,” he said.

They go to all of the major events in the state and sometimes travel out of state, he said. When there is an event, Ford checks out the competition's prices so he can determine what to sell his items for. On Sunday, the 44-year-old Las Vegas man was selling his shirts for $10 and three pins for $5.

He wouldn’t say how much he makes.

Some vendors, such as Kyle David, follow the campaign around the country. David said he lives in Charlotte, N.C., where his boss makes some of the pins and T-shirts. He said they get the rest of their products from national wholesalers.

“I’ve traveled 6,000 miles in about five days,” he said.

He flew in Saturday, which he said was a hassle because he had to pack all his merchandise. That's complicated because of the logistics and the expense. If he loses a box of merchandise in shipping, his chances at profits plummet.

David, 29, said venues usually require vendors to have permits, but they’re not usually strict about enforcing them.

His normal mode of transportation is a van that he has driven to places throughout the country, including Florida and Ohio. He said that for now, it’s a full-time job.

David pulled out a bent cigarette, lit it and pitched his merchandise to a passing family.

“Shirts, pins; get them on your way out,” he said. People always buy the most on their way out, he said, because they don’t want to carry anything in.

The three-day Obama visit allows him flexibility and extra time to make sales. David wouldn’t say how much he generally sells per event but said he has to restock every week.

Although most people at the rally awaited what the president would say, the vendors were eager for the event to end before it even started. They were waiting to see what they could sell.

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  1. "We're just trying to make an honest dollar," he said. "It's not like we're doing anything illegal."

    Tell that to the vendors on the strip trying to sell water bottles. Most of them get cited and are forced to shut down.