The Nebraska State Fair is always a big event, but this year the fair boasted its largest single-day record, while also welcoming the 1 millionth visitor to the fair since its move to Grand Island four years ago.
The fair welcomed its special attendee at 9:55 a.m. Saturday.
Angela Lents of Aurora, Neb., and her family — husband, Clay, and children Austin, 7, and Tajel, 4 — were speechless when approached with the announcement from Nebraska State Fair board chair, Jana Kruger.
Clay Lents said, “it’s wonderful to be the 1 millionth visitor, but even better is that the Nebraska State Fair has welcomed one million visitors as the fourth year in Grand Island commences.”
Kruger said, “this is great. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished at the Nebraska State Fair, and even more proud that we provide family focused fun for the whole family.”
With a total of 71,355 fairgoers on Sunday, Sept. 1, the Nebraska State Fair this year set a new single-day attendance record since moving to Grand Island.
“This single-day attendance record surpassed our previous record of 67,929 on the same Sunday in 2011,” according to Joseph McDermott, state fair executive director. “It was only 367 visitors short of the all-time state fair single-day attendance record of 71,627 set in 2009 — the final year the state fair was in Lincoln.”
“The heat was certainly an issue for the first nine days, when temperatures were much higher than weeks previous to the start of the fair”, McDermott added. “Happily, our total attendance came in at 334,931, which is just 2,056 visitors behind 2012.
“The one thing we’re not able to control is the weather, but happily we rallied the final two days of the fair when even Labor Day attendance was 3,500 higher than the same day a year ago.”
The state fair offers a multitude of events, from educational booths to livestock shows.
The UNL Food Processing Center display in the 4-H/FFA exhibition building featured more than 20 food companies that offered samples of food produced in Nebraska.
Visitors were able to sample salsas, pickles, beef jerky, popcorn and more.
Fairgoers also got their first glimpse of the Nebraska Building, now under construction.
Starting in 2014, the $5.4 million building, financed mostly by Nebraska banks, will host the Ag Literacy Experience partnership with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
That exhibit will feature 25,000 square feet of interactive activities, designed to help participants understand the science and art of agriculture, as well as expose them to agriculture-related careers.
The youth shows are always well-attended, and this year was no exception.
More than 5,000 4-H members had more than 10,000 exhibits in such areas as science, agricultural literacy and career development. Youth from all 93 counties were represented.
The youth livestock shows featured exhibitors competing for titles and rewards in beef, goats, sheep, swine, poultry and rabbits. The grand champion market beef selection was held the final day of the fair, as well as the parade of champions, where all of the champions were recognized.
The winner of the junior market beef show was 16-year-old Colton Kleinschmidt of Sutton. His 1,336 pound steer, named Jackpot, was chosen by judge Ryan Rathmann as the best of the bunch.
Jackpot, who is part Shorthorn, is red, and was one of five division winners who competed for the title.
“I even made sure there was a big red steer in the lineup,” said Rathmann, as he examined the finalists.
Kleinschmidt took home the $4,000 grand prize, as well as $1,350 from his division win.
The reserve champion was Josh Taylor-Forester of Loomis, who earned $2,500 for his reserve champion win.
His steer, named RGIII, weighed in at 1,322 pounds.
The Nebraska State Fair board of directors approved an additional $27,000 per year for premiums for 4-H and FFA livestock exhibits, bringing the total to $96,000.
According to McDermott, “this commitment will do two things; The first is to make premiums equitable across the board, and secondly, it will increase livestock premiums by 40 percent for 4-H and 38 percent for FFA.”
Kent Zeller, a former officio state fair board member representing FFA, said, “now that FFA and 4-H share the same facilities, it was time to look at other areas where FFA and 4-H have the same goals and promote the youth activities of the state fair. This is a win-win for all parties involved. It’s a very positive step to make the Nebraska State Fair the showcase for youth in Nebraska.”
Kathleen Lodl, a former officio state fair board member representing 4-H, echoed Zeller’s comments adding, “along with learning about the science around livestock production, exhibiting an animal at the Nebraska State Fair helps young people gain the necessary skills to equip them for their future careers.”
McDermott said, “4-H and FFA has always been at the heart of the Nebraska State Fair and this is another way to show additional support for our next generation of agricultural leaders.”
“The Thrill of it All” was the theme for the 2013 Nebraska State Fair.
The theme was chosen to highlight the new partnership with midway carnival provider, Wade Shows.
“Our partnership with Wade Shows actually began at the 2012 Nebraska State Fair when we erected the new Sky Tram,” McDermott said. “Wade Shows owns and operates the Sky Tram, which provided 30,000 fairgoers with a high-flying look over the fairgrounds this past year.
“This year, the new ride line-up proved to be a huge draw with kiddie rides in the “Lil’ Pardners” area, family rides, thrill rides and a new slate of spectacular rides fairgoers expect when visiting the Nebraska State Fair,” McDermott said.
He continued, “Wade Shows is unprecedented when it comes to customer appeal and service. Their customer service amenities include shaded seating area, mouth-watering food, landscaping, games and their all-new Gold Access Program, offering more opportunities for guests of the Nebraska State Fair.
Each year, the Nebraska State Fair contracts with EventCorp Services to conduct electronic surveys on the fairgrounds to learn what fairgoers are thinking day by day.
While the full electronic survey has not been tabulated, McDermott said, “we do know that 60 percent of our attendance came from Grand Island and central Nebraska, and 17 percent came from Lincoln and Omaha. The Lincoln/Omaha numbers are up a percentage point over 2012.”
Kruger said, “given our tremendous survey results, we know we’re continuing to do the right thing year after year to keep folks coming back for more.
She added, “93.4 percent of our survey respondents said they would enthusiastically recommend the Nebraska State Fair to others. This goes to customer satisfaction, and we’re very pleased we’re able to provide a family friendly venue for all of our visitors.” ❖