State Fair Finishes Strong with Big Weekend Attendance - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

State Fair Finishes Strong with Big Weekend Attendance

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Despite days as hot as a fried Ho–Ho on a stick, the Nebraska State Fair breaks attendance records yet again.

Even with blistering heat, the fair's numbers were right on track with last year's record setting pace, with total attendance of 335,000.
Sunday was the single biggest crowd yet in the fair's Grand Island history. With more than 71,000 fairgoers on Labor Day Sunday, the "banana man" had his hands full.

"It was good to see lines back again," Jim Ritzman said.

Visitors came out in droves, with one of the fair's biggest weekends ever.

The fair battled blistering heat nine of 11 days, including some that felt well over 100.

Ritzman said, "That was devastating to vendors – so many people didn't come out because of it and it's hard to catch up."

Attendance dropped nearly 20 percent on some of the hottest days. It kept people away, but only on those days.

"And they all showed up on the weekend," State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott said.

Fair officials were thrilled 335,000 people passed through the gates, with total attendance down less than a percent from last year's record.

State Fair Board Chair Jana Kruger said, "It's a testament to Nebraskans, but they've been here before. Many of them have already come to the State Fair, they know we had air–conditioned buildings they could escape to and I think that's why numbers were as high as they were."

Surveys show 94 out of a hundred people would recommend the fair to their friends, and most say it was the best yet.

As the fair settles into it's Grand Island home, leaders acknowledge they need to add green spaces and trees.

Plus they're working on a master plan that would include more air conditioned buildings, in addition to the one under construction now.

Kruger said, "The word next year is always in the air and we're always looking for new ideas, what we want to change and how can we tweak it and make it better."

Vendors like Ritzman enjoyed deep fried satisfaction by the final weekend, even if it was a case of delayed gratification. The Banana Man gives the fair high marks and sets his sights on next year.

"I look forward to 2014," he said.

The 71,000 on Sunday was a single–day record for Grand Island and second all time only to the final Sunday in Lincoln.

"It was a banner year," board chair Jana Kruger said.


State Fair        

Attendance Comparison in 
Grand Island

  2010 2011 2012 2013
Friday 11,021 21,875 15,073 16,179
Saturday 42,785 45,127 42,742 43,145
Sunday 32,464 27,654 36,961 30,125
Monday 11,479 16,172 13,260 14,583
Tuesday 22,335 18,195 19,736  19,456
Wednesday 14,602 24,985 23,064 22,163
Thursday 23,269 14,524 19,389  17,058
Friday 26,419 23,869 26,433  24,315
Saturday 37,513 38,201 52,195 42,712
Sunday 53,795 67,929 58,770  71,355
Monday 33,718 34,512 29,364  33,840
Totals 309,400 333,043 336,987
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