Published Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:24 pm
World-Herald editorial: Big move helps State Fair thrive

Remember way back when the Nebraska State Fair was held in Lincoln?

If you had to pause to think about that, then it’s one more sign of the success the fair has enjoyed since relocating to Grand Island.

But it’s far from the only one. The 2010 move made room for the University of Nebraska’s new Innovation Campus, and that was no small accomplishment. The change of scenery also has breathed new life and fresh excitement into Nebraska’s annual salute to farming, family fun and food.

By almost any measure, the fair is getting high marks in its new home. With the 144th edition opening Friday, here are a few examples:

>> Attendance last year was 336,987. That was an increase over 2011 and 2010, and except for the fair’s farewell year, significantly higher than the previous decade in Lincoln.

>> Fairgoers like what they see. A survey of last year’s crowd found 78 percent saying the Nebraska State Fair was “better” or “much better” than other fairs they’ve attended, and 94 percent said they were likely or very likely to give an enthusiastic referral.

>> Exhibitors are happy. Ninety-five percent from 2012 said they were likely to return. And in announcing plans for a new, $5.4 million building for the fairgrounds, fair officials said the Grand Island event has had an “unprecedented exhibitor waiting list” since 2010.

>> Sponsors are pleased. Cash and in-kind contributions to the fair have risen dramatically, from $390,000 in 2010 to $969,000 this year.

>> Volunteers are plentiful. A total of 880 volunteers worked at the 2012 fair, donating more than 12,000 hours of their time. That’s real commitment.

>> The fair has made good on its promise to put renewed emphasis on its agricultural roots. Thousands of 4-H, FFA and open class exhibitors will be competing in livestock and domestics categories. The post-2012 survey found 81 percent of fairgoers saying they increased their knowledge of agriculture, while 88 percent agreed that ag is important to the fair.

>> As for the all-important food, the fair’s website (http://statefair.org/fair/) has a “food finder” that helps users select a favorite food category or vendor, then find it on a printable fairgrounds map. Another feature allows users to chart out the day’s itinerary, while a smartphone app can help find entertainment, eats, even where you parked the car.

Certainly there’s more work to be done. The majority of 2012 fairgoers hailed from Grand Island and central Nebraska, and, while the fair’s more accessible to them and residents of western Nebraska, luring more Omaha and Lincoln residents wouldn’t hurt.

Clearly, Midlanders like their state fairs. The Iowa State Fair, which is wrapping up its 2013 run today, is that state’s largest event, annually attracting about 1 million visitors.

Moving Nebraska’s fair, while traumatic at the time, has proven to be a real boon.

“There was some concern,” State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott acknowledges. “Picking up and moving an entire state fair, and moving it away from the population base — that’s something that hadn’t been done before.”

But now, he told The World-Herald, “It was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Nebraska State Fair.” The sparkling Grand Island fairgrounds “are probably the envy of ever state fair in the nation.”

None of which is to say that the more than 100 years of hard work, traditions and celebrations at the old Lincoln fairgrounds weren’t important or memorable. The event was a big deal for a long time.

But new traditions are being made, and in its new home, the State Fair is positioned for another 100 years of making good memories for Nebraskans.

Primary battle between Battiato, Morrissey may be only race
UNMC appoints new dean for the college of dentistry
Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Metro transit recommends streetcar, rapid-transit bus line for Omaha
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
After decades looking in, Republican Dan Frei seeks chance to take action
Cause of Omaha power outage along Regency Parkway unclear
Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn try to pin label of D.C. insider on each other
Curious about government salaries? Look no further
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »