The Nebraska State Fair has been a hot topic in the news this past year. With the unprecedented weather conditions during the 2019 fair, there have been rumors and misconceptions flying around with regards to the financial stability of the fair.

As the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, which has oversight over the fair, I requested a meeting with Chris Kircher the chairman of Nebraska State Fair Board, to discuss the current state of the fair and board’s plans for the future. On Dec. 27, Chris and I met for several hours in my office in Lincoln. Upon conclusion of our meeting, I am very confident in the financial stability of the fair and direction the board is taking the fair for the future.

Here are some of the highlights from that meeting. First, the fiscal side of the fair, followed by items the fair board is working on to make the 2020 State Fair even better.

Rumors that the State Fair is on the verge of bankruptcy couldn’t be further from the truth. The organization’s balance sheet remains strong and the State Fair is fortunate to have a guaranteed partner in the Nebraska Lottery, which is expected to produce a total of around $4 million in revenue for the fair in 2020.

The State Fair has passed and continues to follow an extremely conservative budget that factors in the prospect of five days of loss due to weather and other adverse factors, but also provides the funding necessary to deliver the type of high-caliber event that Nebraskans have come to expect.

Sponsorships have grown 53% in the past two years and the sponsors are fully supportive for the 2020 fair. The State Fair broke all our pre-sales records in 2019, proving its marketing approach is working and those efforts will continue in 2020.

Despite last year’s inclement weather, the State Fair set a new carnival record, topping a gross of $1M with Wade Shows; more than 25% of sales were earned before the fair opened and the initiatives that made this possible are being implemented in 2020

Efforts are actively underway planning and preparing for the 2020 Nebraska State Fair, scheduled to be held Aug 28 through Sept 7.

The fair will produce the country’s first Welding Camp in 2020, thanks to a grant received; the goal is to entice eighth grade through 12th grade students to look at welding as a possible career, getting them interactive with the experience of welding while experiencing the fair.

The fair will focus on four Nebraska communities in our first “city series” days in 2020; imagine “Central City Day” or “North Platte Day” at the State Fair, focusing on the town’s offerings, industry, agriculture and tourist attractions.

Fair staff are in the process of searching for new concessionaires to offer “Nebraska-ish foods” like an Omaha Rueben stand or a kolache stand.

The fair is working with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to continue building programming such as having the UNL Marching Band here and other university attractions.

As you can see, the Nebraska State Fair Board and staff are actively moving forward to make the State Fair even bigger and better for 2020 and beyond.

I have requested the chairman of the Nebraska State Fair Board, Chris Kircher. along with the executive director of the Nebraska State Fair, Lori Cox, come to Lincoln and provide a briefing on the Nebraska State Fair to the Agriculture Committee. The briefing is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Steve Halloran of Hastings represents District 33 in the Nebraska Legislature.

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