Nebraska State Fair to hold modified event focusing on 4-H and FFA activities


By Robert Pore, The Grand Island Independent (NE)

Jun 30, 2020


The Nebraska State Fair Board voted Tuesday to go on with the Nebraska State Fair this year, but in a modified format that focuses on 4-H and FFA youth activities due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.


In approving the modified form of this year’s State Fair, the board also gave the fair’s new executive director, Bill Ogg, and his staff the flexibility to schedule other fair events based on the current ongoing health directives from the Central District Health Department and the state of Nebraska.


According to the plan approved by the board Tuesday during a special meeting that was broadcast on Zoom, the fair will be held on its two scheduled weekends. During the first weekend, which begins on Aug. 28, there will be 4-H activities, including livestock shows and static exhibits. During the Labor Day weekend of the show, the focus will be on the FFA component of the fair, but it will also include those livestock shows that feature both 4-H and FFA members.


Ogg told the board that “it is truly worthy that we invest in our Nebraska 4-H and FFA youth. I think it is important that we offer something in the time frame of the traditional Nebraska State Fair dates.”


“The people of the community and the people of the state and nation are hungry for some wholesome social activity and what is more wholesome and wonderful than a fair,” Ogg said. “The idea of having that and doing it safely and appropriately and doing it affordably, I think is the option for the fair board.”


The Nebraska State Fair was coming into this year’s fair dealing with financial losses caused by the last two fairs, especially last year’s fair that suffered from a lack of attendance because of heavy rain.


Ogg said the first priority in holding a fair this year is the health and safety of people attending the fair.


The second priority, he said, is that “the Nebraska State Fair is here for the next 151 years and we don’t squander our limited resources on trying to do something this year that makes us unsustainable to go forward.”


To keep the fair affordable and sustainable for the future, Ogg said, this year’s fair budget has been reduced to $208,000, compared to a traditional fair budget of about $7 million.


“It is worth the investment for more than 5,000 4-H and FFA members who participate in the State Fair,” he said.


With the fair scheduled two months from now, health directives could change, such as the Central District Health Department decision to go to Phase 3 beginning next week. But health directives could change depending on the spread of the virus. The board decided to give Ogg and his staff the flexibility to schedule other events, depending on current local and state health directives.


That includes the carnival. Jeremy Jensen of Grand Island and other board members expressed concerns about having the carnival, especially as local schools begin the new school year. But by giving Ogg and his staff the flexibility to schedule other fair events, such as the carnival, it will help to make the event as safe as possible as health directives change.


The decision to hold a modified Nebraska State Fair this year comes on the heels of Monday’s announcement that the 2020 Husker Harvest Days had been canceled...