We’re less than a month away from our state’s biggest annual celebration, the Nebraska State Fair. From August 26 through September 5, Nebraskanians across the state will come together to share all that Nebraska agriculture has to offer. This will be the 153rd time we will come together for this centuries-old tradition. Last year, the State Fair brought more than a quarter of a million attendees to Grand Island, including visitors from 10 countries and 43 states. This year, we will be ready to welcome even more guests eager to taste the sweetness of life.
At its core, the State Fair is a fantastic celebration of Nebraska’s number one industry. Agriculture is the heart and soul of what we do here in our state. It represents approximately 20% of our economy and is an engine of job creation – 1 in 4 jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture. The State Fair gives us the opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of agriculture in Nebraska and how it continues to shape our rich heritage.
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Fairgoers are given an experiential way to learn about agriculture through the State Fair’s interactive Raising Nebraska exhibit. Participants can drive a combine harvester simulator, get their hands dirty in the different soils that nurture Nebraska’s crops, and learn how farmers use technology to irrigate fields. Plus, a milking parlor at the State Fair gives attendees a first-hand look at dairy farming.
The fair also allows our next generation of Nebraska agricultural leaders to exhibit livestock through FFA and 4-H. They will show off their animal care skills, helping fair attendees better understand the importance of animal husbandry to Nebraska. But as agriculture progresses, so does the fair. This year, students will also participate in a robotics competition to demonstrate the many uses of technology in modern agriculture.
Beyond agriculture, the State Fair also showcases the creativity of Nebraskans. Cooks will enter home-made pies, jams and condiments in culinary competitions. Backyard farmers will compete to see how their flowers and vegetables stack up against the competition. And the sculptors, quilters and cabinetmakers will exhibit their work. These friendly competitions are an opportunity for Nebraskanians to win the coveted blue ribbon.
The State Fair is also Nebraska’s premier family festival. It is home to the largest carnival in the state, with rides and games for all ages. And, there’s an abundance of entertainment options throughout the 11 days of the fair. Attendees can watch everything from BMX stunts to ultimate bullfights and pig racing. On August 27, fans can even cheer on runners competing in the Nebraska State Marathon, a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.
Each year, the State Fair brings world-class musicians to Nebraska. Country music artists Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum) will perform on September 3. Lady A is a three-time winner of “Vocal Group of the Year” from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. Latin Grammy-winning Mexican band Los Tucanes De Tijuana will take the stage on August 31. A full list of this year’s concerts is available here.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Nebraska State Fair without lots of great food. This year, more than 60 food stalls will offer all kinds of tasty dishes. My favorite is Nebraska Cattlemen’s Beef Pit, which serves mouth-watering prime rib dinners and slow-roasted beef. The UNL Dairy Store will once again serve delicious ice cream. And there’s no shortage of funnel cakes, nachos, and fried foods on a stick.
True to the Nebraska Way, our State Fair always honors our veterans. On August 30, several activities are planned to honor our veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. At 3 p.m. there will be a veteran program at the Heartland Event Center. The day’s parade will also salute veterans for their service to our country. Additionally, Patriotic Productions will present its exhibit Nebraska Remembering Our Fallen throughout the fair in the Nebraska Building. It commemorates the brave Nebraskanians we have lost to military service since 2001.
As we look forward to State Fair 2022, we are also investing in its future growth. This spring, the state allocated $20 million in federal ARPA funds to improve infrastructure at the State Fair House in Fonner Park. The upgrades will ensure that our State Fair has first-class facilities that Nebraskanians can enjoy for generations to come.
Nearly 1,000 volunteers dedicate more than 12,000 combined hours each year to make the State Fair a success. Thank you to the many Nebraskans who generously give of their time to ensure visitors have a safe, fun, and memorable experience. If you are interested in volunteering this year, please visit statefairvolunteer.org.
I hope you plan to bring your family and friends to the 2022 Nebraska State Fair. You can find out all the fun that awaits at statefair.org. If you have any questions about state support for the fair or anything else, please contact me at [email protected] or 402-471-2244.