Leaders of the Nebraska State Fair are flying high, as attendance in Grand Island hit a new high at 337,000 fairgoers, despite a summer of drought and heat.
A total of 336,987 people were counted entering the gates of the fair. That's a 1.2% increase from 2011's total of 333,000 and the biggest crowd yet at the fair's new home.
The fair was fun for the young, like Shalom Moore who said her favorites were to "get rides and cotton candy."
And fun for the young at heart, like Paul Lane of Missouri Valley, Iowa. "I think it's a wonderful fair," he said.
The Nebraska State Fair has topped itself again. 337,000 people passed through the gates. That's up from 333,000 last year and 309,000 from 2010.
Only Lincoln's final year had better numbers in recent years. And it could have been bigger if not for the weather.
Executive Director Joseph McDermott said, "Keep in mind on that Sunday it got to 101 out here so we're probably fortunate we got 58,000."
Both Saturday and Sunday topped 50,000 people.
Not only was attendance up, 97 percent of people say the fair was better or much better than the year before.
Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson said, "People are just loving it."
Nearly a million people attended the first three years in Grand Island, proving naysayers wrong.
Johnson said, "Some people early in the process were very hesitant and skeptical that the Nebraska State Fair could be successful in a community the size of Grand Island and that might have been urban-itis more than anything."
While the fair gets huge support from central Nebraska, only 16 percent come from the population centers of Lincoln and Omaha.
State Fair Board President Jana Kruger said, "We know where we need to do a little more work because it's Nebraska State Fair and we want everybody to come from all corners of the state."
The Sky Tram was a huge hit too with 30,000 passengers. The ride was put in jeopardy just two weeks before the fair when a truck hauling parts was in an accident. But the ride was operational by the fair's first day.
They know people will come back, they just want more to come for the first time.
McDermott and Kruger said their goal isn't to set attendance records but affordable family fun.
Along those lines -- 95 percent of fairgoers were likely or very likely to tell their friends. That's the highest that number has ever been.
Attendance Comparison in