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Challenge for Nebraska State Fair is improving "best fair ever"

Omaha Children's Museum at the Nebraska State Fair (NTV News)

Only one record remains, as the Nebraska State Fair reaches new heights.

379,000 people attended this year, the best yet since moving to Grand Island, and second best all-time, as the fair surpassed the final year in Lincoln.

Livestock announcer Jill Brown had a front row seat, as she has had most of her life.

She said, “I was born and raised at the fair practically. My family's been involved with the fair as far as I can remember.”

This fair fan says it keeps getting better.

“I think they've set the bar exceptionally high,” she said.

The numbers bear that out, with record attendance in Grand Island of 379,108.

“This number shatters the attendance for the last year in Lincoln,” said Executive Director Joseph McDermott.

Year after year the fair grows, and if it can grow by 10,000 visitors, they'll break the only record that remains – the total of 389,171 set in 1997.

McDermott said, “At some point, hopefully next year we'll beat that record high.”

Of the thousands surveyed, most say the fair keeps getting better.

McDermott said, “It's going to be a challenge to continue to raise the bar, but I'm confident with the people we have associated with this fair, we'll be able to do that.”

60 percent of visitors come from central Nebraska.

Carmen Limbach of Kearney said, “I enjoy looking at the fair projects the kids have done, they're so creative.”

Ben Walker of Bertrand entered artwork in the fair, and attended a few times.

“I see a lot of people here, and I know everybody's enjoying their selves,” he said.

The metro areas of Lincoln and Omaha now comprise 20 percent of the audience, and that number is growing.

Concerts attracted nearly 40,000 people.

Fair leaders also credit 57 partners who bring programs to the fair.

McDermott said, “If you produce a high quality fair, if you've got good satisfaction, numbers will follow and that's where we're at.”

A fan of livestock shows and fair food, Jill Brown says she's already thinking about having corn on a stick next year.

“Every year I leave today thinking that was the best fair ever. How can they top that next year? And next year I come back and they have topped it,” she said.

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