Mr. Nebraska State Fair dies at 88
By ART HOVEY / Lincoln Journal Star August 4, 2010
Henry F. Brandt Jr., manager of the fair, gives the signal for the State Fair steam engine to start up at the beginning of the fair in this undated photo. (LJS file) 8/28/2009 pg 3D Fair Thee Well State Fair General Manager Henry Brandt gives the tradition-honored “hiball” for the fair’s steam train to start its initial run at a 1970s fair. Journal Star file photo .
Henry Brandt said it made him want to cry when he saw buildings being demolished at the former state fairgrounds in Lincoln earlier this year.But as manager of the Nebraska State Fair for 23 years, from 1964 through 1987, he was eager to see the fair's new home in Grand Island bustling with people and livestock.
Henry F. Brandt Jr. -- the last manager to live on the fairgrounds, the man some called Mr. Nebraska State Fair -- didn't live quite long enough for opening day ceremonies in Grand Island Aug. 27.
He died Tuesday at 88.
The strain of heart surgery at that age was probably the biggest factor, said his daughter, Connie Decker, of Lincoln.
"It was just too much for his body."
Brandt, raised on a Beatrice-area dairy farm, attended his first fair at age 2 and won second place in the 4-H Dairy Show at the state fair at 14.
Then, and for the next 74 years, there was never such a thing as too much fair.
"His hobby was fairs," Decker said. "Really, truly, his hobby was his work."
He indulged his hobby with so much skill and enthusiasm that he became the lone 1980 inductee into the International Association of Fairs and Expositions' Hall of Fame in Las Vegas ceremonies.
At the time of his death, he was an active member of the State Fair 1868 Foundation Board. And as recently as a month ago, he was taking tickets from people arriving for horse racing at the former State Fair Park.
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