Nebraska State Fair to feature youth events only

Other activities canceled
No admission fee and mostly 4H and FFA events.
Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 5:51 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - It won’t be the Nebraska State Fair everyone has come to know, especially since moving to Grand Island ten years ago, but there will be a youth showcase held during the State Fair dates this year. The State Fair Board of Directors made that decision Tuesday morning during a special meeting.

Other fair activities are being canceled, with board members keeping open the possibility of adding other events as fair dates approach. Any still remaining scheduled concerts are among the events canceled. Board chairman Beth Smith said it was not feasible from a safety or financial aspect to hold the indoor concerts.

“It is truly worth it that we invest in our Nebraska 4-H and FAA youth”

Bill Ogg, State Fair Executive Director

Newly hired State Fair Executive Director Bill Ogg told board members that the staff recommendation was to hold a showcase of the traditional youth activities for those involved with 4-H and FFA across the state. Ogg said this was one of two choices they were facing, the other being canceling the state fair outright.

“We can go through with our plan for 4-H and FFA even in phase 2. So that’s really where we started this journey thinking what could we do if we were still in this phase,” Board Chair Beth Smith said.

Ogg said the first weekend of the fair, August 28, 29 and 30 would host the 4-H events. The second weekend would involve FFA events. Other activities, such as food vendors, the Raising Nebraska Experience and the Game and Parks display will be available during the week in between. Fair officials also say they will be looking for other possible activities to add, but nothing if official today.

There will also be no admission fee for this year’s fair.

Ogg acknowledged that Directed Health Measures could change by fair dates, but that they needed to make a decision based on current information.

“We have to plan for what we know we can handle right now,” said Ogg.

He also said he doesn’t want people to look at this as a second class option.

“It is truly worth it that we invest in our Nebraska 4-H and FAA youth”, said Ogg.

Ogg says they project it will cost around $208,000 to hold the junior youth event.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, speaking at a press conference after the board made their decision, agreed it was important that the young people of the state that have been working on their projects have a place to show them.

“It’s our Nebraska young people that hold the future,” said Ricketts. “So, it’s important to do this.”

Ricketts added that he is confident fair officials will do everything necessary to insure the health and safety of everyone involved.

Board member Dawn Caldwell made the motion that the traditional fair not be held, with the 4-H and FAA youth events. The motion also included authorizing the executive director and staff to add other events that could be added if possible in light of current health considerations and if fiscally feasible. Board member Bob Haag seconded the motion.

After discussion, the motion passed 9-1 with board member Chuck Rolf the lone “no” vote.

Board member Jeremy Jensen of Grand Island expressed concerns over the possibility of a carnival during the event. Jensen pointed out that would be a gathering point particularly for Grand Island youth. His concern would be the possibility of causing a community spread within the community and the negative impact it would have on the school systems.

Other board members expressed support for the youth shows, but not the carnival.

Jensen did ask that the board once again be involved in decision making when it comes to holding a carnival. Ogg said the board would be informed before those decisions are made.

The State Fair decision comes just one day after organizers of the annual Husker Harvest Days event announced they had canceled this year’s show. That was scheduled for September 15, 16 and 17 in rural Grand Island. The modified State Fair will lessen the financial impact the area would have felt if two major events had been completely canceled.

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