State Fair Board discusses wins and losses of 2019 fair

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB)- The Nebraska State Fair Board had an emotional meeting Friday that ended with one member resigning. The meeting focused on the wins and losses of the 2019 fair.

Executive Director Lori Cox gave a passionate speech addressing some rumors that have been circulating the community and board. She stated there is no place for gossip or discrimination on the board. She even compared herself to a quarterback who needs to be given the ball.

“I need you, board members, to let me have the ball. You gotta let me have it and when we do that, I guarantee you we will win games,” Cox said.

She listed a number of things she had helped improve since she took her position almost two years ago. It included a great increase in the amount of sponsorship money coming in, making ticketing easier to understand their deals, and the improvements to the carnival.

The meeting also touched on budget as the fair is now in the red by about $385,000. The board moved forward with a request of a $1.5 million revolving credit from Five Points Bank. Board members also discussed how they need to have more plans in place for what to do if the weather is bad during the fair again.

“Understanding now that we need a weather contingency,” Cox said. “What if this happens again in 2020? Who knows. We didn't think ever we would deal with weather factors we did in '18 back to back.”

Along with a weather program, Cox promised to have a more concervative budget after a portion of their losses came from overspending on the concerts. The shuttles needed due to the off site parking also added to the lost revenue. About 80-90% of fairgoers were shuttled to the fairgrounds.

The 2019 fair had a total of 283,468 people attend, which is down 10% from 2018. Cox said this year has been a learning experience on how to handle the indoor concerts and future weather issues. But she followed it up with that she is willing to take risks and it is going to take trial and error to make it work.

The board went into executive session and at the end board member Doug Lukassen resigned without comment to the media.