ker was impressed by how the fair’s livestock facilities and exhibition hall were laid out in a “storefront” style to give fairgoers better access.
“There were a lot of things done up here that were forward thinking,” Tucker said. “We have a lot of fairgrounds in this country that have been around for two centuries that were built without any thought for moving people and materials around like we do now with the kind of equipment we have. It is changing and evolving, and I think the Nebraska State Fair offers a remarkable opportunity for people to come see from all over the country.”
The Nebraska State Fair’s growing reputation for its modern livestock facilities has helped draw a number of off-season national livestock shows to Grand Island.
Tucker said the Nebraska State Fair is a good example of how fairs and expositions are evolving to remain competitive in attracting the public, who nowadays have a lot of options for their entertainment dollar.
One of the big attractions in an ever-increasing urban society is the opportunity to see farm animals, Tucker said.
“There is no place else in our society where the farm animal and human animal mix at the level they do at fairs,” he said. “That is what draws so many people to the fairs, especially in the urban areas.”
That concept was an integral part of the layout of the Nebraska State Fair, along with inclusion of such popular fair exhibits as the milking parlour and the birthing pavilion.
Over the years, Tucker said, exit polling of people attending fairs across the country has shown that three things create a powerful public draw — food, rides and animals.
For many years, he said, fairgoers ranked animals No. 3, but now exit polling shows that animals have risen to the top of the list.
Tucker said young urban children are more familiar with animals at the zoo than on the farm.
“It is a really unique opportunity that we have, and it is a challenge to keep the rest of the presentation current, but this differentiator with the animals, if we are smart, will be around for another couple of hundred years,” he said.
The Nebraska State Fair is also improving its appeal to urban residents by partnering with Wade Shows, which has become the new carnival midway operator. Wade Shows is ranked No. 3 among the nation’s top amusement providers by CarnivalWarehouse.com. Wade Shows boasts more than 100 rides, of which 40 will be chosen to put a new spin on the Nebraska State Fair. Wade Shows also has a wide array of games and food choices.
Wade Shows’ presence was felt with the new Sky Tram in 2012 covering the length of 1,200 feet while climbing to a height of 40 feet above the fairgrounds.
Also, over three years, the fair has increased the number of food vendors and regulates those vendors to ensure that fairgoers have a wide variety of unique food choices.
Tucker said Nebraska has a modern facility for its State Fair thanks to a strong public/private partnership.
“Fairs are a community celebration, and they deserve to have our support,” he said.