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All roads lead to Nebraska State Fair

The state fair runs from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

July 8, 2024

3 Min Read
the Skytram at the Nebraska State Fair
FAIR TIME: Everyone loves to ride the Skytram at the Nebraska State Fair. It offers visitors an aerial view of farm machinery, livestock buildings, exhibits and midway rides. This year’s state fair is set for Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb. Photos by Curt Arens

“All roads lead to fun” is the theme for this year’s Nebraska State Fair, set for Aug. 23 to Sept. 2 in Grand Island. With the lineup of competitions, youth activities, entertainment and pure Nebraska fun, it looks as though this year’s fair will live up to that theme.

According to a state fair news release, the total attendance at the 11 days of the 2023 fair was 311,909. That’s 8.5% above the previous year’s attendance, breaking the 300,000-guest milestone for the first time since before COVID-19.

Last year’s fair reached the 4 millionth visitor since the fair was moved from Lincoln to Grand Island in 2010, and it included 7,333 livestock entries. The highest attendance at a Grand Island state fair came in 2017, when 379,108 came through the gates. The highest attendance ever was achieved in 1997 in Lincoln, with 389,171 fairgoers.

Nebraska State Fair

4-H and FFA

Farm families participate and enjoy the livestock shows and other ag-related competitive events at the state fair. This year’s fair livestock events kick off with 4-H poultry, beef and sheep check-ins on Aug. 23 and conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 2, with the FFA championship selection.

There are plenty of poultry, sheep, goat, beef, swine, dairy, rabbit, llama, alpaca, dog and equine events throughout the fair, for 4-H and FFA members and open class contestants.

Related:Slice of Nebraska life at county fairs

Urban and rural visitors alike love the birthing pavilion, where guests can visit baby animals just born or see expectant mothers awaiting their new babies. The dairy milking parlor and ice cream store and the Beef Pit, along with the Expo building, are all must-see stops for any state fair visitor.

An antique tractor parade along the main avenue of the state fair

Ticketed events

Along with the carnival, marching bands, parades, marathon and Nebraska’s largest classroom at Raising Nebraska, there are numerous planned ticketed events that will draw young and experienced fairgoers alike. Here is a tentative schedule of a few of those entertainment opportunities:

Aug. 23. Ultimate Bullriding Tour, US Foods Outdoor Arena, 7 p.m.

Aug. 24. Ultimate Bullfighters Tour, US Foods Outdoor Arena, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25. Casting Crowns with special guest, Anne Wilson, indoors at Heartland Events Center, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 26. The Gatlin Brothers with Lorrie Morgan, indoors at Heartland Events Center, 2 p.m.

Aug. 27. The Little River Band, indoors at Heartland Events Center, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 28. Riley Green, outdoors at TD Landing, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 29. Los Huracanes Del Norte, outdoors at TD Landing, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30. Turnpike Troubadours, outdoors at TD Landing, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 31. Yung Gravy with Tayler Holder, outdoors at TD Landing, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 1. Nebraska Bush Pullers Truck and Tractor Pull, presented by Motoplex, State Fair Motorsports Park, 5 p.m.

Sept. 2. Nebraska Demolition Derby Championship, presented by Motoplex, State Fair Motorsports Park, 2 p.m.

For ticket information and schedules, visit statefair.org.

The Beef Pit

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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