Over the past 10 years, Grand Island has come to look at the Nebraska State Fair as OUR State Fair.

When it moved here from Lincoln, we were excited about having the annual celebration right in our backyard and we began doing everything we could to support it and make it successful in its new home.

It was exciting to walk into the brand new facilities that first year. It was thrilling to walk around the fairgrounds during the State Fair and see all those people from all over the state enjoying themselves in our community.

And we turned out by the hundreds to volunteer at the State Fair. All those volunteers doing so many jobs during the fair is one of the reasons for the fair’s success, as they have saved the fair money and helped it provide top-notch customer service to fairgoers each year.

Putting on the Nebraska State Fair has really been a community effort for the past 10 years. Throughout that time the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce organized and carried out the volunteer program as a way of supporting the fair. It has done an excellent job of making sure that the fair has volunteers and seeing that the people who want to volunteer know what needs to be done and where they should go during their scheduled hours.

Now it has been announced that the Nebraska State Fair will be taking over the volunteer program, while the chamber will be sponsoring a workforce development program at the fair focused on welding.

The chamber deserves a big thank you for all it has done to contribute to the State Fair’s success.

The State Fair needs to make sure that it continues to communicate to its potential volunteers that they are a valuable part of the fair’s workforce and what they do to support the fair is making a difference.

The fair has hired a full-time volunteer coordinator. It’s good to see that, even though the State Fair has had to make some staff cuts because of its financial issues, it is not shorting the volunteer program.

When State Fair Executive Director Lori Cox spoke to the Grand Island Rotary Club Tuesday, she provided an optimistic look at the fair as it moves forward after the financial difficulties created in large part by the extremely unusual weather of 2019. Last year was one of the wettest years Grand Island has ever had and it had a huge impact on the Nebraska State Fair as its parking lots were too wet to be used and the fairgrounds even were flooded one morning during the 11-day fair.

Sign-ups for commercial and food vendors are well ahead of last year, news of the country music concerts announced last month has been well received and a Christmas promotion for the sale of carnival wrist bands and gate admissions brought in about $35,000. More concerts will be announced soon.

Although the fair’s financial situation was dire after last year’s fair, the State Fair board and Cox have worked together to pare down the staff, cut spending and develop a budget within which they can successfully operate the fair.

The Nebraska State Fair must always be ready to cope with whatever Mother Nature throws at it, but it is extremely unlikely that it will again be dealing with flooding again this year.

Grand Island is looking forward to a great 2020 Nebraska State Fair.

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