State Fair Offers Sneak Peek into Nebraska Building


One million visitors and growing -- the Nebraska State Fair looks to its second million in Grand Island. And there's good reason to visit the fair in 2014 with the debut of a massive new building.

They're calling it the Nebraska Building, and the highlight is something they're calling the Nebraska Agriculture Experience.

Chuck Hibberd, dean of Extension for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was among those touring the construction site.

He said, "The story of Nebraska agriculture needs to be told in ways that share this is how we do things -- this is how we care for animals, this is how we grow crops in an environmentally sustainable way."

They're planning exhibits that could rival those at the most popular theme parks.

"This is going to be a Disney-like experience," Hibberd said. "We're going to have a bunch of different experiences where families, young people can come in."

There will be hands-on activities and video simulators.

Hibberd said, "Sit in the equivalent of a combine cab and see what it's like to harvest the crops."

It's the final building to go up on the fair's main street.

Tam Allan, past fair board member said, "Plans are moving along, building construction moving along. Hopefully the fair office will move in in May, the University of Nebraska will take possession of their space in April."

After construction wraps up, then it's time to install exhibits.

Hibberd said, "This isn't your regular go visit a farm deal, this is about the science and art of agriculture and the people, real people who produce our food."

The building will also house Nebraska Game and Parks.

Allan said, "It's a 60,000 square foot building and this has always been the intended home for the agriculture exhibit, that has been in the exhibition building over there."

That includes 20,000 square feet for the Nebraska Agriculture Experience.

"And what that means is that our capacity to engage a large number of people at the same time is really going to be incredible," Hibberd said.

Dignitaries including the fair board along with city leaders like Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek toured the construction site. But they'll need to come back every year to see the exhibits take shape.

Hibberd said, "Agriculture changes every day and this exhibit is going to be designed in such a way we can update it, put new information in, create new video, new conversations about the latest and the kinds of things that are going on in agriculture right now."

It's a $5 million building, plus more to outfit it.

With that kind of investment, the university will have a full-time staff member there year round, developing standard-based curriculum for school groups that visit.