Lori Cox wasted no time Friday alluding to a phrase she’s heard frequently in her line of work.
“You’ve got to move the pickles,” the Nebraska State Fair director said.
At most state fairs, she said, canned goods — like pickles — sit in the same place every year at competitive exhibits.
“You know what that means,” she said. “You’re like, ‘Eh, seen the pickles before. Been there, done that.’ ”
But Cox said those pickles being moved 15 feet to the left or the right can make fairgoers feel like they’re looking at a whole new display.
“Entertainment is exactly the same way,” she said.
Whether moving pickles, bringing in new music acts or restructuring the fair’s grounds, Cox said change is crucial.
It’s part of why the 2019 Nebraska State Fair, which begins Aug. 23 and runs through Sept. 2 in Grand Island, is reshuffling this year’s entertainment lineup with options for all sorts of Nebraskans.
Cox sat down with The World-Herald on Friday to discuss some of the new things Nebraskans will see at this year’s fair.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
State Fair concert bundles
Perhaps the most considerable change to this year’s fair is the increase in concerts from seven in 2018 to 12, in addition to having 76 stage performers.
Cox said the increase in concerts goes hand in hand with wanting a large celebration for the fair’s 150th year, but the value of a ticket was critical, which is why the fair is bundling concert tickets this year.
Fairgoers can see acts like Brett Eldredge, Maren Morris and Little Big Town on three separate nights for roughly $25 an act when purchasing a bundle.
With three different bundles to choose from, Cox said tickets are easy to trade or sell if fairgoers can’t make all three concerts for which they’ve purchased tickets.
The bundles make up two-thirds of the fair’s concerts, as specialty concerts, which are $10 each, will include acts like The Drifters and Trace Adkins.
Ticket bundles and single concert tickets can be found at etix.com.
Centered between the Five Points Bank Arena and Aurora Co-Op Chill Zone is the heart of this year’s fair.
Called the Fair Center, the space will feature a large display birthday cake for the fair’s 150th anniversary, as well as a blank 4-by-24-foot canvas.
The canvas will be painted throughout the week by Connecticut-based muralist ARCY and be put on permanent display at the fair. ARCY has done work for The Walt Disney Co., National Parks Service and Major League Baseball.
Cox said that every year moving forward will likely see the Fair Center have a different attraction, but it’s meant to remain a central point for groups attending the fair.
“We didn’t have anything before where people would meet up,” Cox said.
Roughstock rodeo and polo match
The fair has always welcomed a ranch rodeo at its fair, but the addition of the Grand Kubota Roughstock Rodeo will take things up a notch.
Those attending the roughstock rodeo on Aug. 23 and 24 will see saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding, as well as some barrel racing. Cox described the rodeo as both rough and adrenaline-based.
Those who’d like something a little less rough can view a polo match on Aug. 25. The match will include a fancy hat contest, and a hat-making station, as well as cocktails.
Chill Zone and party pit
Both the Chill Zone and party pit are providing “a different entertainment vibe” at this year’s fair, Cox said. Both are shaded spaces beneath tents, and the Chill Zone — which Cox said has spires akin to the Denver Airport — will feature seating, as well as a special guest: Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel, who will zip around on miniature water skis throughout the day.
The party pit was created due to the fair’s concentration on a younger audience this year, Cox said. The pit will include several smaller music acts, as well as “after parties” for night shows that will include drink specials.