Although representatives of the city of Grand Island have fielded some negative comments about the Nebraska State Fair’s move from Lincoln to their city next year, fairgoers have generally been positive, they said Saturday.
Ken Emry of Norfolk may have been typical.
Emry stopped by Grand Island’s booth at the Nebraska State Fair on the western side of the fairgrounds Saturday to find out more about Grand Island.
“What have you got for hotels?” he asked.
Sue Clement, a Grand Island volunteer, provided a list and a sympathetic ear, as well.
Emry said he had been coming to the fair for 41 years. Family members and friends have helped with various events. He liked the tradition, he said.
“It’s hard to see it leave (Lincoln),” Emry said.
“I can understand that,” Clement replied tactfully.
But Emry holds no grudges. He thinks Lincoln leaders didn’t fight hard enough to keep the fair.
“I’m glad you folks will have it,” he said. “I wish you guys the best of luck.”
Grand Island boosters are confident they are up to the job of hosting the fair.
At the opening ceremony Friday night, Grand Island Mayor Margaret Hornady said she thinks the move is “pretty darn exciting.” Both she and Grand Island fundraiser Gene Graves said people there are excited and ready to go. At the Grand Island booth Saturday, Bruce Eberle, a member of the State Fair Marketing Committee, said he thinks the time is right time for both cities.
Since the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will build a research park on the vacated fair grounds, “Lincoln wins, too,” he said.
The state fair will relocate to the Fonner Park complex in Grand Island. Foundations for the new swine, cattle and sheep barns, an ag arena and three exhibition buildings should be poured before cold weather sets in, Eberle said. Completion date is August, 2010.
Eberle said Grand Island residents thought the fair relocation was a neat idea when Grand Island leaders first proposed it, but questioned how the city could do it. Improvements made to city infrastructure in the last 10 years and the Fonner Park campus carried the day.
“Where else could you find such a huge campus with existing city services?” he said.
The 2009 State Fair concludes its final run in Lincoln on Sept. 7.