Story by Robyn Scherer | Staff Reporter
Photos courtesy of the Ne State Fair

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September 15, 2012
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Nebraska State Fair Boosts Attendance

This year marked the third year that the Nebraska State Fair has been held in Grand Island, and as the fair has settled in, the attendance has increased. This year, 336,987 people attended the fair, up 1.2 percent from last year.

“We’re very pleased with this number as rain and extreme temperatures worked against us on two or three occasions during the fair,” said State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott.

He continued, “I think it’s important to note that our ultimate goal each year is not to beat the previous attendance, but instead to provide an affordable family experience where everyone in our great state can attend. We spend in excess of $1 million for entertainment, and we feel we give Nebraskan’s a great value with a variety of entertainment, strolling and grounds acts, livestock, domestics and so may more great activities.”

The state fair, which was held from August 24 through September 3 at Fonner Park, had the theme of “High Flying Fun” this year, and that is exactly what attendees could enjoy.

New to the fair this year was the 40-foot high Sky Tram, which ran from one side of the fairgrounds to the other, and was 1,200-feet in length, or roughly the size of four football fields. It went over the core of the fairgrounds, and allowed visitors to see the fair from a different angle.

“The Sky Tram opened to great success with a total of 30,000 riders over the 11 days of the fair,” said Shaun Schleif, marketing and sponsorship director for the Nebraska State Fair.

The fair was moved from Lincoln to Grand Island in 2010 to accommodate the growing needs of the fair.

“The State Fair, with its move to Grand Island, refocused what it was doing back to agriculture,” he said. “The new fairgrounds was built with agriculture in mind from the swine, sheep and beef barns and the Five Points Bank Arena where competitions are held for 4-H, FFA and Open Class Exhibitors, all in air-conditioned comfort.”

More than 1,000 FFA members brought 2,701 entries to the fair this year, with the highest number of entries being in the horticulture category. A total of 923 entries were judged in this category.

In the junior livestock shows, the grand champion steer was exhibited by Jesse Hoblyn, 15, of York, Neb. His 1,310 pound steer named Mr. Chow, was the champion in a field of 311 market steers and heifers. He earned $4,000 for being the overall winner, plus $1,350 for his division win. Hoblyn had the reserve champion steer at last year’s fair, and the grand champion in 2010.

The reserve champion steer was exhibited by Morgan Burke, 18, of Genoa. She earned $3,450. In the open classes, entries were down compared to last year, and a big part of that is being attributed to the drought.

The Nebraska State Fair open beef cattle breed shows, are generally a highlight of the Fair, and were held on Wednesday and Thursday, August 29 and 30, 2012 in the Livestock Arena on the Nebraska State Fairgrounds. Wednesday’s breed shows include Angus, Red Angus, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Charolais and Lowlines.

Thursday, August 30, was designated ‘Cattleman’s Day’ in honor of the beef industry. According to Nebraska State Fair Livestock Superintendent Bill Angell “We are pleased to be working with the Nebraska Cattlemen and the Sandhills Cattle Association to bring emphasis to the Nebraska Beef Industry.”

The Nebraska Beef Industry has a $12.2 billion impact on Nebraska’s economy each year. With 20,000 beef cattle operations and 5.1 million head of beef cattle fed and marketed each year, the beef industry is a major driver in Nebraska’s overall economy.

Angell concluded “It is an honor to be working with these great organizations to promote a great industry; Nebraska Beef. Nebraska beef is a staple in the overall economy as well as worldwide.”

In addition to attending events, attendees could also participate in hands-on learning experiences while at the fair as well. The livestock birthing pavilion featured a large-animal birthing area, a farrowing area for pigs and a poultry hatching area. Those who attended the fair could see livestock being born under the supervision of trained professionals from the University of Nebraska Pre-Vet Medicine Program.

The veterinarians who were on staff during the fair talked to the public about animal agriculture, which is a $12 billion industry in Nebraska. As of Jan. 1, 2012, Nebraska ranked second in the national in all cattle and calves with 6.45 million head. The state ranks sixth in hogs and pigs with a total of 3.15 million head, and tenth in table egg layers with 9 million birds.

During the fair, attendees could see litters of piglets being born, lambs, chicks and dairy cattle.

The fair also featured a fiber-glass milking cow, where participants learned about the dairy industry and learn what it is like to milk a cow. There was also a live milking parlor on site, and attendees could watch the cows be milked.

The fair also features a tractor parade, which had a goal this year of breaking the Guinness Book of World Records previous record of 745 classic tractors, which was set in 2008 in Germany.

This year, the parade featured 1,139 people and tractors from 31 states. The tractors came from as far West as Oregon, and as far East as New Jersey.

To qualify for the parade, the tractors had to be at least 30-years-old, and had to go the entire 2-mile parade distance. The parade took about three hours, and the record was officially broken. ❖

“I think it’s important to note that our ultimate goal each year is not to beat the previous attendance, but instead to provide an affordable family experience where everyone in our great state can attend.”
~Joseph McDermott

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