State Fair earns purple ribbon, despite the rain and flooding

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Ten years after lawmakers made a bold decision to move the Nebraska State Fair out of Lincoln, the event seems very much at home now in its Grand Island venue.
This year’s fair was another winner, despite a deluge of rain that has hit Grand Island and all of Central Nebraska hard this spring and summer. Event organizers had no choice but to scrap the initial parking plans and ramp up the shuttle service to parking lots throughout Grand Island, which according to all initial reports addressed the dilemma as well or better than anyone could have been expected.
Plan B wasn’t ideal, but then neither is 31 inches of rain through the first eight months of the year. The ground is saturated, creeks, rivers and retaining areas are full, leaving no where for water to go but up and around the fairgrounds. There was absolutely no other option but to deal with the circumstances, be positive and get on with it, which come to think of it is the Nebraska way.
The final head count was not posted as of this writing, though most crystal balls were pointing to a slightly lower attendance in 2019. Regardless of the final tally, organizers deserve a purple ribbon for showing resolve and perseverance in the eye of the storm.
The close proximity to Hamilton County makes it especially convenient for local State Fair goers. This area prides itself on volunteerism, and there were opportunities galore at the Nebraska State Fair for that kind of hands-on involvement. An event of that size, with so many venues within the massive grounds, simply doesn’t happen without a small army of local volunteers. Hats off to any and all who donated their time and effort during the 11-day span.
My wife and I are regulars at the State Fair each year, watching our nephews show sheep and goats while also taking it as many sights, sounds and tastes as we can. It offers a genuine slice of life in Nebraska, one that reminds us of our rural heritage. We wouldn’t miss it.
The other side of this win-win transition is becoming more visible now with the impressive growth of the Innovation Campus on the former site of the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln. The investment and job creation potential there represents a better use of that space in both the long- and short-term, especially with its close proximity to the university and all its resources. Any pangs of angst from the 2010 move have been long since forgotten.
The facilities in Grand Island are impressive, and so too is the feeling of ownership. The host community and Central Nebraska as a whole have stepped up and accepted this worthwhile challenge, giving the Nebraska State Fair a good home and a bright future, come rain or come shine.
Kurt Johnson

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