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Insider’s Guide To The Nebraska State Fair

Updated: August 11, 2017

Kim’s note: The following is a guest post written by my friend, Krynn, who’s been going to the Nebraska State Fair since she was a child and now brings her own family to it each year. If anyone can tell you the ins and outs, the what-to-sees and what-to-eats of this fair, it’s this gal.

State Fair Logo 2

Where do I begin to tell you all about the Nebraska State Fair! The Buffalo County Fair and now the Nebraska State Fair are in my blood thanks to my dad. As a kid, we would haul our silver camper-trailer to the Buffalo County Fair, where my dad would run the Children’s Barnyard. The Children’s Barnyard was just as it sounded – full of baby animals brought by FFA members to show kids. (FFA used to stand for Future Farmers of America. Now they just call it FFA.) I got to help clean the barn, feed the calves, and most importantly play with the puppies and kittens. I also got to roam the fair with my friends and cousins, show some sheep, ride the carnival rides, and eat BLTs and junk food from the 4-H stand. I’m telling you – it runs deep.

So fast forward to the Nebraska State Fair. It is fun and hard work. My husband and I are fortunate to help in the FFA show, again due to my dad, and have for the last eight years.

(My poor husband; I never really told him that he was marrying into the state fair!)

You really have to see it for yourself. These kids work hard, really hard to train and groom their animals. They spend hours upon hours building this relationship. Through all this work, they develop patience, build character, and learn skills for agriculture and for life. And at the end of a long day at the state fair, this is a common sight…

Nebraska State Fair 1

Really, where else can you see kids like this?

So, what to see?

It seems pretty obvious, but one must-see is a youth livestock show.

Hello, you are in Nebraska – animals and agriculture are central to our culture.

Both FFA and 4-H shows are going full-blast on Labor Day weekend.  Check out www.ffa.org and www.4-h.org for information on how to get involved. They are good stuff!

Also, walk the barns. There are so many awesome animals to see, each representing the best of breeding in their species.

Exploring the barns at the Nebraska State Fair.

Exploring the barns at the Nebraska State Fair.

There is also birthing barn for kids to see brand new babies – literally born at the fair! So, if it is time for the birds and bees talk, there’s no better place to start than the state fair.

And, look at the big pig attraction. I mean look how big he is compared to two adults. Huge!

Ah, nuts. His face is hidden behind that pole.

Ah, nuts. His face is hidden behind that pole.


And, the children’s petting zoo.

The petting zoo at the Nebraska State Fair.

The petting zoo at the Nebraska State Fair.

And, the rides of course.

Even adults want to go.

A state fair isn't complete without midway rides.

A state fair isn’t complete without midway rides.

What to eat?

From what I hear eating should be a top priority, like most state fairs. StateFair.org updated their site so it is interactive. It makes it pretty easy to find what you are looking for.

I hear great things about The Beef Pit and Cactus Jack’s – both worth the walk it takes to get to them.

However as a Pescaterian, recommending food at the state fair seems awkward. Salads are rare and even those feature meat. So I hired two experts in this area. Rachael recommends the Hot Beef Sundae, and compliments to her on taking this photo.  Yes, it’s like i

Behold, the mashed potato sundae, with gravy, cheese, and mashed potatoes.

Behold, the Hot Beef Sundae, with gravy, cheese, and mashed potatoes… and a tomato on top. Photo courtesy Rachael Carlson.

(That is a tomato on top, by the way, and that’s the only way to get one at the fair.)

I think just mentioning the idea of eating at the state fair had her salivating. I think she described this as her “favorite part, because it is sooooo good.”

And my husband, friend Matt, and Dad all highly recommend the Turkey Leg from Hardenbrook vendors. And as you can tell turkey legs are no small feat.

Turkey legs at the Nebraska State Fair come highly recommended.

Turkey legs at the Nebraska State Fair come highly recommended.


Or checkout Mannys Sweet Corn on a Stick; Southwestern, Maple-Chipotle Glazed, Yang (coconut), and Sweet Mexican. This seems like a must in Nebraska.

They have even added a menu for the Health Conscious. Check this out.

This counts as getting a serving of vegetables, right? Photo courtesy StateFair.org.

This counts as getting a serving of vegetables, right? Photo courtesy StateFair.org.

Looks good to me!

Don’t forget to get dessert at the Heartland Lutheran High School Concessions in the Five Points Livestock Arena Event Center.

See, it sounds amazing.

And the list goes on and on. What does Nebraska have that you have to see. Really, all of it. It isn’t just the activities, concerts, flattest marathon, sky tram, or food. It is tradition since 1868, before Nebraska was even a state. Now that is truly awesome. Go Nebraska!

Come and enjoy – Let me know what you think!



If you go

All of the following information can be found here.

Nebraska State Fair 2017

When: Aug. 25 through Sept. 4, 2017

Where: Fonner Park Road, Grand Island, Neb.

Admission/Discounts: Adults, $9 (in advance; then it goes up to $13), and children, $3; under age 5, FREE. Do not purchase full-priced admission tickets if you are attending the Fair on Aug. 28-31. Reduced price adult tickets will be available AT THE GATE for Aug. 28-31.

Parking: It is free and they have shuttles. The west parking lot and mail entrance on State Fair Boulevard can be accessed from South Locust Street. The east parking lot can be accessed from Stuhr Road. Bus parking will be available on the North side of the grounds, off of Fonner Park Road.

There are four off-site parking locations throughout Grand Island, along with shuttle service (Arrow Stage Lines) to and from the fairgrounds, buses load and unload at the north gate into the Family Fun zone. At the off-site shuttle locations, NSF signage will designate the pickup location.


Note: There is a shuttle, and you get get all the details here.

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