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SATURDAY SALUTE: Nebraska State Fair continues to be a treat

SATURDAY SALUTE: Nebraska State Fair continues to be a treat

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A huge Saturday Salute goes this week to the Nebraska State Fair staff, board members and volunteers who have put on a fantastic fair despite the need to pare it down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Fair Board took a big chance in deciding to go ahead with the fair while states around us, such as Iowa and Missouri, were canceling their state fairs.

But they knew their staff was up to the challenge and it has paid off greatly for the fair’s reputation after a down year last year due to heavy rain in August.

The board understands how important the State Fair is to the 4-H’ers and FFA members who bring their award-winning projects to Grand Island to share them with a statewide audience. Nebraska has 140,000 4-H members across its 93 counties and more than 190 FFA chapters, which have almost 10,000 members.

So they scheduled two weekends of youth livestock shows and provided the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center as a much larger venue for displaying all the 4-H static exhibits.

With the help of the state’s livestock groups, the fair also has been able to hold open class shows during the past week.

At the State Fair opening ceremonies last Saturday, Gov. Pete Ricketts emphasized that, to be able to put on a state fair, people have to work together.

The fair officials and staff worked with Teresa Anderson and her staff at the Central District Health Department, as well as city of Grand Island officials, to make sure that everything was done properly in order to protect the health of people attending the fair.

That is evident with the many sanitizing stations around the fairgrounds and the placement of vendors outside so they can be spaced out and minimize crowding.

We especially salute Jaime Parr, chief of sales at the State Fair, who was the fair’s interim director until Bill Ogg was hired earlier this year. Parr carried on planning for the fair and played a major role in ensuring that the fair is successful.

Don’t forget fair food drive

We also salute the Nebraska State Fair and Hy-Vee for carrying out the Harvest for Hunger food drive during the fair.

The donations that are being dropped off at the entrances to the fair directly help four local food pantries: Salvation Army Food Pantry, St. Mary’s Food Pantry, Blessed Sacrament Food Pantry and Spirit of Life Food Pantry.

The program is simple: When visiting the State Fair, bring along some dry or canned food items and put them in the Hy-Vee shopping carts that are located at the fair entrances. Volunteers will sort the food and divide it up among the four pantries. Along with the food donated by the public, Hy-Vee also has contributed food for the drive.

Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 11.6% of Nebraska’s population is food-insecure, according to the Map the Meal Gap report from Feeding America.

That number has increased because of the pandemic with the loss of jobs and shortening of working hours. The demand for food has strained supplies at local pantries, which are struggling to keep up with the need.

There still is time to donate food as the fair continues through Monday.

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