This year marked observance of the 150th Nebraska State Fair. This sesquicentennial celebration made me think back on the 47 years of State Fairs I’ve attended. Since 1972, when I was a 13-year-old 4-Her, through this year’s edition, I have rarely missed a fair. There have been many memorable events over those decades, and the weather that accompanied them was equally memorable. True to Nebraska form, we have alternately broiled, froze or sloshed our way through those fairs.
With the unusually wet weather this year, it was no surprise that the fair experienced not one, but two deluges. With one occurring just before the start of the festivities, the new fair manager had to deal with unprecedented wet grounds. She and her staff scrambled to put an alternate parking and shuttle plan in place.
The phrase “Nebraska Strong” held true as they worked overtime to get shuttle busses lined up and running regularly from various sites around Grand Island.
We attended on opening day and were pleased with the door-to-door service provided by the shuttle. It didn’t hurt that the fair administration sweetened the pot by presenting all shuttle users with fair passes good for Monday through Thursday entrance at the 2020 Nebraska State Fair. (Ours are safely tucked away on the kitchen bulletin board where I hope I’ll remember I put them a year from now.)
I know we all hoped for the fair’s sake, as for ours, that there wouldn’t be any more rain and the grounds could dry out enough to allow parking on the state fairgrounds later in the fair. But alas, all hopes were dashed when early in the morning of Day 2, 1.5 inches of rain fell at the fairgrounds and 2-3 inches were common throughout an already water-logged Grand Island.
The picture of one vendor kayaking his way to his food stand was a sad indicator of how much rain fell. Unfortunately that photo and other pictures discouraged many would-be fair visitors from attending. Little did they know that the water drained away relatively quickly and most of the grounds were quite passable later in the day.
Showers continued through most of the first week of the fair. But Mother Nature finally smiled on the fair’s final weekend so the 150th birthday celebration could conclude in style.
By the time Sunday rolled around, mild temperatures and sunny skies prevailed and the fairgrounds swelled with visitors, including Hubby and me. We had returned to visit with family showing sheep and then attend an ice cream social and a meeting of the Nebraska International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) Alumni Association.
The shuttle system continued to operate as the muddied parking lots only had a few spots where it was safe to park. We arrived early enough in the morning that several busses were lined up at our shuttle spot ready to take fairgoers to the drop-off point at the 4-H building.
A special celebration marking not only the fair’s 150th birthday, but the University of Nebraska’s 150th birthday as well, brought the entire Cornhusker Marching Band, cheerleaders and Herbie Husker to the grounds.
Paired with our favorite fair food and the chance to see many good friends, it was another successful outing. Yes, we sloshed our way through some spots, but the birthday candles were bright for all who took time to visit the 150th Nebraska State Fair.
Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at email@example.com.