This year, the Nebraska State Fair drew 287,367 people over its 11 days, an increase of 8% from last year’s fair.
The best-attended concert was that of ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, which drew 6,628 people on Friday, September 2.
The highest daily attendance of the year was recorded on Saturday 3 September.
“The fair was amazing from our perspective,” said Bill Ogg, executive director of State Fair.
Final concession figures were not available on Tuesday. Dealers were still tabulating their figures from Monday.
But through Sunday, the number of foods was up 14% from a year ago. Carnival figures increased by 15%.
While fair officials were pleased, “what’s really important is how our guests felt,” Ogg said. “And there have been disappointments and frustrations.”
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“We’ve had heat issues and some people are struggling with that,” he said.
There were also a few injured. The operator of an antique tractor touched a moving part of the tractor “and cut his hand quite badly,” Ogg said.
But the fair becomes a small town every day, and accidents and injuries happen in a town, he said. He doesn’t want to downplay heat issues or injuries. They are “very disappointing for us”, he said.
But when you gather 20,000 or 30,000 people in one place, “those kinds of things happen,” he said.
Ogg was satisfied with the programming of the fair.
“I think the quality of the experience our customers had was worthy of their investment of free time and leisure dollars,” he said.
Additionally, “I think we kept the facility relatively clean.”
Ogg was impressed with signage that informed people of what was happening at the fair, how to see it, and “how to best enjoy what they were interested in,” he said.
“Our exhibits were outstanding,” Ogg said, referring to what he fondly calls “cattle, cookies and quilts.”
Not only were the entries excellent, but they were well judged and well presented, he said.
Whether they won or not, exhibitors felt “they had a good experience and a good opportunity,” Ogg said. They feel they have “received a fair and qualified opinion on the products and animals they brought to us”.
In summary, he says, the concerts “have been very well attended. Diversity was something we were happy to offer. In fact, the cancellation of a national act and the replacement of a rapper, I think, benefited the fair and brought in people who were otherwise not served by our talent roster.
Lady A was scheduled to perform last Saturday, but was replaced by Flo Rida.
Wednesday’s performance by Los Tucanes De Tijuana and the focus on Latin music last Sunday “was a real draw for this community and again I think it was important for the fair to show up. That was a plus,” Ogg said.
This year was the first time that visitors could carry alcoholic beverages around the fair.
Ogg said the system worked well.
“What our neighboring fairs told us – those that have been doing for decades – is that we would see fewer alcohol-related incidents and we would see an increase in sales.”
Both of those predictions came true, Ogg said.
Instead of being restricted to certain areas, parents were able to walk around with their families while consuming alcohol and having a beer with their meal.
People were able to benefit from increased mobility. But the relaxed alcohol rule has also led to increased sales.
“It motivates people to stay longer, so we have a chance to get them eating and drinking again,” Ogg said.
That’s why dealership sales have increased, he said.
Last year’s fair attracted 266,245 people.
The 2019 figure was 283,468.
This was Ogg’s third year in charge of the Nebraska State Fair. The 2020 show, its first, was limited due to COVID-19.
In reporting fair numbers, Ogg says he uses a “very defensible, conservative” number.
Fair managers use different methods to tally attendance, he says.
You can get concrete data by scanning at the doors. “But we also have so many degrees that count for admission. Can you multiply all of this by 11? Well, some fairs do. And then your attendance is inflated because not everyone is going to come every 11 days. Some do it faithfully. Some don’t,” Ogg said a year ago.
In 2017, the fair attracted 379,108 people. In 2011 and 2012, attendance exceeded 330,000. The 2018 figure was 314,805.
Many dealers and revelers who have been coming to the State Fair for years “say it was as loud and as busy a fair as it was years ago, where reports were in the mid-300,000s,” it said. he said on Tuesday.