The Nebraska State Fair has dramatically increased the number of concerts it will present this year — with 12 shows scheduled over the 11 days of the fair.
“It’s the most we’ve put in front of the fair-going public for a long time, probably 30 years,” said Lori Cox, the fair’s executive director.
Thirty years ago, the fair was in Lincoln and offered concerts at the Devaney Sports Center nearly every night of its run. Those major concerts were dropped in the fair’s last Lincoln years in favor of “free” shows in an open-air auditorium.
The 12 concerts are the most the fair has presented since it moved to Grand Island in 2010.
Nine of the 12 concerts have been packaged into “genre” bundles, with tickets for all three of the shows, along with gate admission for the three days, included in the bundle price of $79.
“Hot country is a given for a bundle,” Cox said. “Then we have red dirt (country) and hard rock. We really wanted to focus on a younger audience we need to be appealing to.”
The hot country bundle includes one of the genre’s hottest artists in Maren Morris (Aug. 30), along with the popular group, Little Big Town (Sept. 1) and Brett Eldredge with Devin Dawson (Aug. 24).
The red dirt country bundle includes Granger Smith, featuring Earl Dibbles Jr. (Aug. 23), Cody Jinks (Aug. 25) and Whiskey Myers with Reckless Kelly (Aug. 26).
The hard rock bundle includes Theory of a Deadman (Aug. 27), Bad Wolves (Aug. 28) and Halestorm (Aug. 31).
Deducting the $12 gate admission from the overall bundle price, the cost per show is only $14.
“It’s pretty tough to find Little Big Town for $14 anywhere, or Maren Morris,” Cox said.
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That said, the fair recognizes that many potential fair concertgoers, particularly from Lincoln and Omaha, only want to drive to Grand Island once, to see a specific show. So single tickets for every show are now available.
Those tickets are $48, which includes the $12 gate fee. That makes the actual show cost $36.
None of the shows are sold-out — “fair shows typically don’t sell out until the very last minute,” Cox said. Pit tickets for the hot country shows, however, are nearly gone.
The fair will offer three other non-bundled concerts: the annual Older Nebraskans Day early show — 11 a.m. Aug. 26 with the Drifters, Cornell Gunter’s Coasters and The Platters; Christian artist Zach Williams (Aug. 29) and a 5 p.m. Veteran’s Day concert by Trace Adkins on Sept. 2, the last day of the fair.
All of the concerts this year will take place in the Heartland Events Center.
Beginning with a Keith Urban show in 2015, the fair had presented a concert or two each year in the infield of the Fonner Park horse racing track, nearly doubling the event center’s 7,500 capacity.
Last year, however, six inches of rain flooded the grounds and forced the shows scheduled outside into the events center.
“After last year’s weather, we decided to move everything inside and not have that risk,” Cox said.
The shows will remain inside for the immediate future. The fair, along with Fonner Park, is now looking at a capital improvements plan that could create a 10,000-seat outdoor venue on the grounds.
For more information and tickets go to statefair.org.