GRAND ISLAND — The Nebraska State Fair is celebrating 150 years as the eleven day event is set to start on Friday, Aug. 23 and run through Labor Day.
The first territorial fair was held on Sept. 21-23 1859 in Nebraska City, before Nebraska was formallyadmitted as the 37th state in 1867. The first state fair held in Nebraska after it gained statehood was 1868. The fair location switched between Lincoln and Omaha between 1872 and 1901.
In 1901 the Nebraska Legislature named the Lancaster County Fairgrounds as the official home of the state fair. Lincoln remained the fair’s location until 2010, when it was moved to Fonner Park in Grand Island. The state allocated $42 million to construct new facilities.
When it came to celebrating the State Fair’s 150th year, Executive Director Lori Cox and her team decided to turn the idea around.
“One hundred and fifty years is a long time and we always reminisce about traditional favorites, cookies, cattle and quilts,” Cox said, “all of this is inherent to the fair.”
Cox said since the state just celebrated its 150th year, the State Fair sought to not only celebrate the past, but to look forward to the next 150 years of the state fair.
“It’s our job to say 150 years more,” she said, “we want to lay the groundwork so the fair goes on and make it the most prized in the Midwest.”
The fair will feature 11,000 events, Cox said. The organizers of the fair deliberately chose to program for the marketplace rather than market their programs, she said. In short they focused on the four main groups of people who attend the fair.
Around 40 percent of state fair attendants are there for agricultural related programs, a further 22 percent are senior citizens. The rest is made up of individuals with a blue collar background and families with young children.
Cox said they wanted to program for these groups and create new programs to bring in more young adults. In order to incorporate these new programs, changes have been made to the layout of the fair to help facilitate this.
A new modular main entry which will welcome people into the fair, a new town square center has been added this year and vendors and entertainment venues have been reoriented, Cox said. A party pit area, doubled in size and marketed for 18-30 year olds, will feature more night shows for this younger crowd.
Concerts are another big pull for the State Fair and there will be 12 concerts held in 11 days. While bundle ticket sales for the concerts have been a big success over the past few years, Cox reminds people there are single ticket sales available for each concert.
According to a press release from the State Fair, Concerts on sale for $48/single ticket include: Granger Smith featuring Earl Dibbles Jr., Aug. 23; Brett Eldridge with special guest Devin Dawson, Aug 24; Cody Jinks, Aug. 25; Whiskey Myers with special guest Reckless Kelly, Aug. 26; Theory Of A Dead Man, Aug. 27; Bad Wolves, Aug. 28; Maren Morris, Aug. 30; Halestorm, Aug. 31; Little Big Town, Sept. 1.
Concerts on sale for $10/single ticket include: Cornell Gunther’s The Coasters, The Drifters and The Platters, Aug. 26; Zach Williams, Aug. 29 and Trace Adkins, Sept. 2.
Ticket bundles are still available for $79 each featuring Hot Country, Red Dirt and Rock shows. Pit bundles sell for $129. All concerts will be held on the Bristol Windows Stage in the Heartland Events Center. For the most complete list of concert dates, times and ticket choices, go to StateFair.org.
There are a myriad of other events taking place at the State Fair this year, including the firefighters combat challenge, a crowd favorite, animal birthing pavilion featuring baby ducks goats and other perennial favorites, fireworks show, antique tractor show, 12 class tractor pull, equine competitions, a polo match, barrel racing, mounted shooting sports and the 4-H and FFA grand drive to celebrate the state’s youth who have made it this far.
The carnival will be provided by Wade Shows again this year, their number one ride is always the sky tram, said Laura Hurley, an experimental partnerships member with the State Fair.
There are multiple bundles and gate deals for admission. A presale deal which ends on Aug. 22 is available on the State Fair website, statefair.org. Carnival tickets can be bought on site and at local Pump & Pantry’s.
Gate pricing on site includes $12 for adults on the weekends, but between Aug. 26-29, gate prices will be $6. Youth, ages 6-12 can get in for $3, children five and under get in for free. A new price this year is for seniors, 60 years and older, who can get in for $5 each day.