LINCOLN — It’s been one of the wettest years on record, and the Nebraska State Fair is the latest to get soaked.

Another round of heavy rain fell in Grand Island early Monday, flooding parts of the state fairgrounds. It was the third rainy day of the fair’s first four days, and another round is possible late this week. The fair runs until Sept. 2.

Still, the show went on Monday, aided by water levels receding.

“We experienced a deluge,” said Lori Cox, executive director of the fair. “We came through it a lot better than you would think.”

Officially, Grand Island received 1.43 inches Monday, with much of it coming in one big whoosh about 6 a.m. Water pooled in low areas of the fairgrounds, largely because the ground was saturated and drainage ditches and basins were full, Cox said.

“The water was just everywhere in Grand Island. It didn’t have anywhere to go,” Cox said. “It’s just really tough.”

One storm chaser posted a photograph of a fair vendor kayaking in a lake of water Monday morning at Fonner Park, the home of the State Fair.

By 10 a.m., most of the water had drained away and most events went without a hitch, Cox said. Some marching bands weren’t able to perform.

Pooling water caused problems in the Aurora Co-op Building, where swine are housed, and in the 4-H and FFA building. The timing was fortunate in that the Co-op Building was between animal shows, so there weren’t a lot of animals affected by the water, Cox said. The fair worked with vendors to help get them as high and dry as they possibly could, Cox said.

Nebraska is in the midst of one of its 10 wettest years on record, and August rainfall has already set a monthly record for Grand Island, according to the National Weather Service.

And while the rain is affecting attendance, “so far, we’re doing pretty well,” Cox said. When the weather cooperates, attendance blossoms, she said.

“Sunday was extraordinary,” she said.

Because the ground is saturated, parking lots on the fairgrounds are closed. For the rest of this year’s fair, attendees will need to park at satellite lots and shuttle in, Cox said.

Satellite lots are at Conestoga Mall, Shopko, Sam’s Club, Central Community College and the Walmart on South Locust Street.

Cox estimated that about 80% of the 66,000 people attending over the weekend used shuttles.

World-Herald staff writer Nancy Gaarder contributed to this report.

 

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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