By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Working to the last minute and beyond, the Nebraska State Fair did what it could to finish a new attraction, the Sky Tram, in 2012 after a fiery crash on the interstate destroyed parts for the attraction.
Two years before, they worked nearly nonstop to build fairgrounds from scratch after moving from the century-old home in Lincoln to Grand Island.
"414 days" to be exact, Jana Kruger is quick to point out.
Now Kruger and members of the Nebraska State Fair board have the luxury of time as they plan their next big move, another exhibition building.
Kruger said, "We're already running out of capacity on sponsoring, places for vendors to be outside and inside."
The fair began taking applications from vendors last week. Facility Director Jaime Parr said she expects another waiting list for those trying to get a booth.
She said, "Entries continue to be very overwhelming. Our returning vendors are coming back strong and we're hearing from lots of new vendors too who, word on the street is, they need to be at the Nebraska State Fair. I enjoy talking to those folks."
Some outdoor exhibit space is still open, but indoor space is maxed out.
"This is a great problem to have," Parr said.
And while they can take their time designing and building the next exhibit hall, they will lose the man who's been the driving force.
Lincoln developer Tam Allan has volunteered his time and staff to help coordinate construction.
But his term on the fair board is ending.
Jana Kruger said, "Tam Allan got the buildings done. He was the whole reason, the push behind getting them done in 414 days. He just has a real wealth of knowledge on buildings. Yeah, we're going to miss Tam. This is his last year, so we really want to utilize him."
The board is not quite ready to take action on the next building, but continue to make other improvements.
This year that includes a new midway provider.
"Really looking forward to a new carnival this year -- number three rated carnival in the nation and the Sky Tram will be back," Kruger said.
And they hope to green up the grounds as well. They hope to especially improve the Kids Zone.
"So we put in sprinklers. We will see green grass and give it a park feel," Kruger said.
The fair is also ramping up for this year's volunteer effort. Soon, they'll unveil a website allowing volunteers to sign up more easily.
They also hope to implement new honors for those who have volunteered 100 hours or more.