Nebraska 4-H ready for new State Fair site in Grand Island | TheFencePost.com

Nebraska 4-H ready for new State Fair site in Grand Island

LINCOLN, Neb. – When more than a century of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension 4-H tradition teams with a brand new Nebraska State Fair, it’s bound to make for a wonderful family time, officials say.

4-H’ers will exhibit their projects in new buildings in a new location with amenities adding comfort and convenience for them, vendors and the public.

“4-H has always been a huge part of the Nebraska State Fair,” said Kathleen Lodl, assistant dean for extension.

4-H fair exhibits are the culmination of months – even years – of learning for youth to become contributing, productive, self-directed members of society, she said.

State Fair Board President Sallie Atkins of Halsey said the fair and 4-H make for a great partnership.

“Families will be so proud of their new Nebraska State Fair,” Atkins said. “We just want everyone to come and enjoy. It will be so worth it.”

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The new fair will have climate controlled, first-class exhibit space, plenty of water, electricity and wash racks for exhibitor animals, and technology such as Facebook, blogs and big screens for live streaming.

The Grand Island fairgrounds feature six new buildings covering more than a half million square feet, including the 70,000-square foot Grand Island Youth Building for 4-H and FFA exhibitions. Ground-breaking occurred in July 2009.

“It was an incredibly short length of time to get everything done,” Atkins said, adding, “Until you walk into these buildings, you can’t imagine how nice and large they are.”

Photos of the former Lincoln state fair buildings were taken to the architect to incorporate into the new buildings.

Atkins, a former 4-H’er who “took every project imaginable,” is a 9-year member of the fair board who has served in other state leadership positions.

Among those she credits for moving the state fair forward are extension associate dean and director, Elizabeth Birnstihl, also an ex officio fair board member.

“She has taken the lead to enhance everything at the fair involving 4-H,” Atkins said. In addition to offering technology assistance and ideas, Birnstihl encouraged each of Nebraska’s 93 counties to display a quilt block representing that county.

Along with 4-H’s tradition is an emphasis on science, engineering and technology to help further the 21st century workforce.

“We listen carefully to users and young people, and keep up with what the research is showing nationwide about trends and workplaces,” Lodl said. That is reflected in many new events, some scheduled the first weekend of the 11-day fair. Examples for Aug. 28 include:

– Fairport, a technology-driven, interactive activity for all that includes a passport that participants could have had stamped at eight county fairs, as well as at the state fair. Passport carriers are eligible for prizes at the state fair.

– Geospatial and robotics contests.

– New insect identification contest.

“Some of these new contests are appealing to a wider range of young people, as well as the traditional areas,” Lodl said.

The fair runs Aug. 27- Sept. 6 at its new home near Fonner Park and Stolley Park roads in southeast Grand Island. The former fairgrounds in Lincoln will become UNL’s Innovation Campus, a private/public-sector sustainable research campus.

More than 100 research-based 4-H projects are offered in Nebraska, ranging from robotics and woodworking to entrepreneurship, animals and healthy lifestyles. Nebraska extension officials often say 4-H is a child’s first class at UNL.

See the fair schedule at http://4h.unl.edu/pdf/2010Fairbook/Schedule2010.pdf and maps at http://4h.unl.edu/programs/statefair/pdf/StateFairMap-May12.pdf.