Western Nebraska should support new state fair location

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There's a joke -- OK, maybe there's a trace of bitterness behind it -- that people in Lincoln and Omaha think the state ends at Grand Island.

Out here, of course, we think of Grand Island of being "back east."

Still, Western Nebraska should embrace the new state fair grounds in Grand Island, and fair officials are counting on it. That's because traditionally, 40 percent of the people attending entertainment at the state fair have come from Lincoln. Will they drive the extra hours necessary to take in a show in Grand Island?

They should, with this year's entertainment including Martina McBride, Heart, Mel Tillis and other top acts.

The move should definitely boost agricultural participation in the event -- 225 draft horses are expected to take part, for example -- and that's good. State fairs were designed to be agricultural events, and moving them closer to the center of the ag economy makes sense.

With the exception of some of the older existing buildings, fair-goers should expect a much more compact, accessible fairgrounds, with an expanded KidZone and air-conditioned exhibit space. While parking will be scarce, a fleet of six air-conditioned shuttles is ready to bring in passengers from remote park-and-ride location.

Other towns should take note of the way Grand Island has pulled together to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like landing a major annual event like the state fair. That effort is especially important in the inaugural year but will be vital for the fair's continued success in the future.

With the beginning of school and the advent of football season, it always takes planning to visit the state fair.

The new location puts the fair within reach of more of us in "outstate" Nebraska. We should do what we can to prove the move was a good idea.

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