Nebraska State Fair Wins Big

The view from 40 feet up shows what the Nebraska State Fair has accomplished.

What did fairgoers think of the new Sky Tram? "It's awesome. Awesome," shouted a couple that was among the first to ride.

In three short years in Grand Island, they've built a reputation as one of the nation's best.

And a fair that gives out countless blue and purple ribbons now has a dozen awards of its own.

"I have to tell you, that's considerably more than we've ever received in one year," Executive Director Joseph McDermott said.

The combination of traditional agriculture and modern technology has been a winner.

The International Association of Fairs and Expositions gave Nebraska six first place awards, honoring the fair's antique tractor parade and also its smartphone app.

McDermott said, "I think people from all over Nebraska know we have an outstanding fair here but it's good to be recognized by your peers from across the country and the world."

Governor Dave Heineman has taken note.

This week he said, "We would have never modernized the State Fair to the degree we have without moving it out here to Grand Island."

Senator Annette Dubas said she'll never forget the "buzz" in the capitol when Grand Island leaders made their sales pitch to the legislature. Nor will she forget what it felt like to land the fair in central Nebraska.

She said, "I don't think the excitement is ever going away. I don't think we will get tired of hosting the State Fair."

Dubas served on the committee that first approved the fair move. Now she continues to support the fair by volunteering.

"Grand Island, Hall County should be very proud of what they've accomplished," she said.

The Sky Tram may have taken the fair to new heights, now they build on that.

McDermott said, "We've got to make each fair bigger and better, keep it interesting, keep programs fresh."

Along those lines, the fair staff checked out some unique acts at their national convention and are busy trying to book concerts and the smaller acts that stroll the grounds.

The fair received six first place awards from the IAFE:

  • won for Best Fair Website
  • Fan Fair won for best e-mail newsletter
  • The Nebraska State Fair's new mobile app took home the top prize for best mobile effort
  • The combination of mobile website, text messaging, and use of QR codes took first for best mobile campaign
  • A photo of the World's Largest Antique Tractor Parade won its class
  • The fair's recycling program took the gold in the sustainability category