Market to Market

Nebraska State Fair plows ahead

Aug 21, 2020  | Ep4601

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — It looked for a while that this year's Nebraska State Fair, Aug. 28-Sept. 7, may be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But State Fair board members didn't want to stop a 150-year tradition and decided to hold a fair highlighting its core strength — youth.


Following public health directives, the State Fair board decided to feature 4-H youth on the first weekend of the fair and FFA students on the second weekend.

There was not going to be a carnival, concerts and those events traditionally associated with the fair. The board decided to charge no gate admission. But the fair staff was given a directive to find ways to fill those days while following health protocols and staying on budget.

Greg Harder, the Aksarben Stock Show director, also handles a number of chores for the State Fair. This year, he and the other fair staff were on a mission to find ways to enhance the fair with additional shows and entertainment, the Grand Island Independent reported.

"The decision to cancel the fair, as we know it, and put together what we can, was a long process," Harder said.

Talking with 4-H and FFA officials, Harder said they felt it would be best for them to have those shows on separate weekends. Then it was Harder's task to try to fill the days between them with livestock shows. What made the task even harder was those events would not cost the fair, which had dramatically pared its budget.

He said the first things to go were the premiums paid to livestock participants, because the fair's traditional revenue streams, such as gate admission, vendors and exhibitors fees, concerts and the carnival, were gone.

Harder said the first livestock group that steps up was the borer goat exhibitors.

"They wanted to take a couple of days so they are going to start coming in Sunday evening after the 4-H'ers have all left," he said.

The first borer goat show will take place at 4 p.m. Aug. 31, The second show will be Sept. 1. The goats will be housed in the Sheep Barn.

Harder said some people wanted an open class beef shows, which begin Sept. 2 and conclude Sept. 3 when judges will pick a "supreme champion," bull and heifer. There will also be a junior heifer show, which will be an opportunity for some the cattle to be shown twice, he said. That will be Wednesday at 4 p.m.

There will also be a jackpot feeder calf and heifer show for spring-born calves on the evening of Sept. 4.

The FFA livestock shows are scheduled for Sept 5-6.

Harder said there will be an open class hog show that will be on the front side of the FFA show.

"It is called open class, but it is essentially a jackpot show for those FFA kids to be able to show their pigs twice," Harder said.

There will be no livestock shows on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

On the equine side, Harder said the fair is working on bringing four shows, two on each weekend, at the Thompson indoor and outdoor arena.

On Aug. 28-29, will be the Foundation Quarter Horse Show. On Aug. 30, the Nebraska Team Penner's Association will have a one-day competition in the Thompson indoor arena.

On Sept. 4-6, at the Thompson outdoor arena, the Nebraska Mounted Shooters will be featured. The Friday show is at 5 p.m. and the weekend shows start at 11 a.m,

Harder said the Nebraska Cutting Horse Association will perform Sept. 5-7, beginning at 8 a.m. at the Thompson Indoor Arena.

A stock dog show competition is scheduled Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the Five Point Arena.

Because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, much of the work was improvised and done on the spot.

To prepare for adding on the additional livestock shows, Harder not only looked at the Loping and Roping in the Heartland Quarter Horse Show that was held in July, but also he visited shows and talked with people from across the country who set them up.

"Being there in person to see how things were getting done or being contact with folks who either running a show or were participants in the show — you learn from others," Harder said. "You don't invent the wheel, but try to borrow someone else's wheel that works pretty good."

Harder said the first priority of the fair board and staff was to make sure celebrate the youth of Nebraska at the fair with the 4-H and FFA shows.

"But as important as agriculture is to the state of Nebraska, we wanted to see what we could schedule," he said. "It has come together nicely."


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