Crowd numbers remain strong for 2015 fair despite hot days
By Russ Pannkonin
The Imperial Republican
This year’s Chase County Fair & Expo continued to build on its rich tradition as one of the premier county fairs in outstate Nebraska.
Chad Oxford, fair board president, said this year’s fair went off smoothly and drew strong crowds throughout the week.
Fairgoers were forced to deal with temperatures in the high 90s much of the week but that didn’t seem to hurt attendance, Oxford said.
The nightly ticketed events Wednesday through Saturday drew more than 6,000 in attendance.
Oxford said they estimate that for every person at a ticketed event, there’s another person on the grounds that’s not at the event.
Counting arena events, that would push overall attendance to nearly 15,000 for the week.
Oxford said the expo was a sell-out and the new fair building was full of exhibitors, as well. The new air-conditioned building provided a perfect escape from the heat.
He said they heard nothing but rave reviews for the new facility which housed the fair round-up supper and the expo exhibits. The building is already rented for a number of events, he added.
Benefactors an all-time high
Oxford said the fair benefactors play a key role in the success of the fair. He said this year marked the largest number of benefactors the fair’s ever had in one year with 91.
Proceeds raised from the benefactor program are used to make improvements to the fairgrounds. Benefactor funds built up over the years enabled the fair to build the new building this year.
Some other improvements made possible by the benefactor program over the years include the livestock barns and new aluminum seating in the grandstand.
This year marked the first time both Friday and Saturday night concerts were sponsored in part by Diamond level benefactors.
The Jerrod Niemann concert Friday was sponsored in part by Great Plains Communications while the Brett Eldredge concert Saturday was sponsored in part by Scott’s Pump Service.
Friday’s concert drew slightly more than 1,700 while Saturday’s concert drew more than 2,300.
Oxford said they went with another country concert on Friday night this year versus a rock show to see how a country show would draw on Friday.
Based on attendance, it didn’t show that a country concert on Friday will draw any better than a rock concert.
He said they will be evaluating that as they consider an entertainment mix for next year’s fair.
This year marked another first with electronic ticket scanning at all of the ticketed events.
Fair board member Dillon Harchelroad, who headed up that project, said it worked well. It allows the fair to collect instant data on ticket sales and demographics that will be useful in marketing next year’s fair.
Oxford noted the Imperial Chamber of Commerce put together another outstanding parade Saturday morning.
Parade Chair Jana Pribbeno said this was one of the larger parades she’s seen since working on the committee.
She said entries were up considerably this year with 52 entries compared to about 40 last year, not counting trucks and cars.
2016 fair dates
Next year’s fair will run from Aug. 14 through Aug. 21.
The fair board wanted to move the fair dates ahead one week going forward. However, the carnival did not have the date open so the fair will remain the third weekend of August for at least the next three years.