The Super Fair is returning to its roots, combining the fun and games of the carnival midway with 4-H and FFA exhibits in an action-packed four-day schedule.
The Lancaster County Super Fair, held annually at the Lancaster Event Center, consolidated from 10 days to this year's four-day schedule, begins Thursday. Everything that was included past years will be packed into the fair with the exception of open-class livestock competitions.
“We are disappointed (about the consolidation), but it was a lot of work to keep it open for 10 days,” said Amy Dickerson, the Event Center's managing director. “We wanted to go back to a traditional county fair.”
The Super Fair runs through Sunday and will include all 4-H and FFA livestock and static exhibits, along with the carnival, a live music series and family-friendly fair staples such as racing pigs, a BMX stunt show and a petting zoo.
And though the fair ends Sunday, carnival rides will continue spinning through Aug. 11 as part of the new Carnival and Talent Festival.
The Monday-through-Saturday festival includes a talent search and nightly live performances, with chances for contestants to advance to the Nebraska State Fair and win thousands of dollars in prizes.
Other attractions after the Super Fair ends include a mud drag, taekwondo competition, a few other horse shows and a battle of the bands.
The traditional county fair, a fixture in Lancaster County since 1870, was first extended from four days in 2010. A number of reasons factored into the decision to return to the shorter schedule, including the strain on funding and personnel to keep the fair going for more than a week.
“When the state fair moved to Grand Island, we tried to fill the niche of what was gone,” said Kendra Ronnau, vice president of the sponsoring Lancaster County Agricultural Society. “But funding didn’t increase with that, so we opted to go back to a more traditional fair.”
Because the fair was stretched out to fill 10 days, some visitors in recent years were disappointed when they found livestock pavilions partially empty.
This year's fair will feature more than 700 4-H and FFA contestants and 5,000 entries in static exhibits and livestock competition.
“We decided we really wanted to focus on the kids," Dickerson said, "and no matter when people came out they would have fun and it would be full.”
There are about 3,000 open-class static exhibits, along with a couple new exhibit categories such as wearable electronics and LEGO robots.
The open-class livestock competitions, where exhibitors of all ages and those outside Lancaster County are welcome, could return if plans to expand the Event Center come to fruition. The Ag Society is moving forward on plans for a covered outdoor grandstand. The long-term wish list includes an indoor coliseum.
Ag Society leaders are exploring funding options that would not require an increase in property taxes, Ronnau said.
Fair daily gate admission is $3 through Sunday, but fairgoers can pick up free admission tickets from sponsors Casey’s General Store, Russ’s Market, Super Saver and West Gate Bank.
There is no gate admission during next week's festival, although parking at the Event Center is $5 throughout the Super Fair and festival.
Annual fair attendance has averaged 130,000 people over recent years.
“The fair is a place for everybody,” Ronnau said. “It bridges generations, shares traditions and when you have that, it continues to grow. That’s the beauty of the fair.”