By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
The new year brings more changes for the Nebraska State Fair, after soaring high in 2012 with a new ride and record attendance.
"Now I can mark one more thing off my bucket list," a man said as he exited the Sky Tram.
That new ride was nearly grounded. A fiery crash on the interstate destroyed parts for the new attraction days before the big event.
At an impromptu press conference, fair director Joseph McDermott said, "It's a disappointment, no doubt about it. The theme's high flying fun."
Crews worked nearly night and day to rebuild and replace the missing equipment.
McDermott was among the first riders, as he confided he was not fond of heights, but proclaimed it a safe and fun ride.
The Sky Tram proved to be a hit. And overall, people found little to complain about.
Ninety-seven percent of fairgoers say it was better than the year before. Going forward, the mission is convincing those who haven't been yet.
Jana Kruger of the fair board said, "If we can just get them here, our survey says they're going to come back, that they enjoyed their day at the fair and they'll come back next year, so we just need to get them here."
The fair's antique tractor parade set a Guinness world record with 964 classic tractors.
Sadly, one man lost his life, when he was loading his antique tractor and it landed on him.
That wasn't the only tragedy. A panel from a midway ride struck an injured a rider on the fair's closing day.
Despite those accidents, the fair again attracted a crowd.
The fair's attendance hit 337,000, up from 333,000 the year before, and 309,000 in 2010.
It could have been higher, if not for blistering heat above 100 degrees.
The fair's success spawned not one but three junior national livestock shows held on the grounds in June and July.
The fair's strong start in central Nebraska continued into year number three and fair officials promise bigger and better things ahead, including a new midway.
The Nebraska State fair was recently honored with more awards from its peers than ever before, with kudos for the fair's 21st century vision, which this year included a new smart phone app.