Geneva couple to ride in style at state fair
GENEVA — Dale Stengel grew up on a farm northwest of Shickley and has been involved with agriculture ever since he can remember. He soon will be honored for some great accomplishments — reaping what he has sown.
Stengel showed livestock at the Fillmore County Fair for nine years and at the Nebraska State Fair for five. He began farming for himself at age 25, took a two-year break for the military, and then resumed farming until age 79.
In 1972 he began his affiliation with the Fillmore County Agricultural Society, then known as the Fillmore County Fair Board. He remains involved today.
Stengel recently received word that he is being recognized for those 46 years of his time and dedication to the Fillmore County Fair. He and his wife, Jeanette, were chosen to be grand marshals for the Nebraska State Fair Parade in Grand Island on Wednesday.
Chelsey Jungck, chief of events and entertainment for the Nebraska State Fair, said there is a certain qualification for becoming a grand marshal and that files indicate this tradition began in 2007.
“Grand marshals can be nominated by someone from their county, an NAFM (Nebraska Association of Fair Managers) member, or anyone else,” Jungck said. “The qualification is that they have made a significant impact on their county fair. It can be a paid position, volunteer, superintendent, board member, etc.”
Stengel started out as a fair director in 1972, was elected board vice president, then became president for 10 years, and now has served as a director again for two years. During that long span, he helped promote the growth of the 4-H Livestock Sale, which led to the growth of both the 4-H and FFA programs within the county.
He also assisted in the building of the new sheep, cattle, hog, and small animal barns, the show arena, horse arena and campsites at the fair.
Stengel said he has many great memories of all the years and feels fortunate to be part of a good-working fair board and community.
“Fair attendance grew when we added the ‘Extreme Bull Riding Tour’ event 10 years ago,” Stengel said. “And then it increased by four to five thousand with the addition of the ‘Team Demo Derby’ five years later. We were the first fair in Nebraska to host that event, and with both events together like that, it took a lot of time and manpower, but we always got it! And we always received abundant financial assistance from businesses and other contributors.”
Stengel added that they bring in new displays as often as possible to make it an exciting experience for the fairgoers and to draw larger crowds. One that stands out in his mind is the year when individuals brought in threshers, steam engines and corn shellers — which was a good educational experience for the young and old alike.
“Volunteers are needed for a great fair and we have always been lucky to get them,” Stengel said.
Stengel doesn’t consider the 46 years he’s given to the fair as work.
“I’ve enjoyed it very much, as I like to help kids and it’s our future — the future of 4-H and fairs,” he said.
Receiving this award made Stengel happy.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.
He and Jeanette will be honored in many ways on Wednesday.
The appreciation day begins with a reception at the Administration Building Board Room from 10:30-11 a.m. The Stengels will ride as grand marshals in a classic automobile, leading the parade that runs from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Other appreciation-tokens include 10 complimentary gate passes, a parking pass, a plaque, a news release to the local newspaper, a photo in the grand marshal vehicle, and grand marshal ribbons to wear all day at the fair.
Jungck said the daily celebration parades are also a longstanding tradition of the state fair.
“This parade consists of color guards, the grand marshals, floats, state fair queens, antique tractors and other vendors wanting to participate,” Jungck said. “Additions to weekend parades include the Shriners and a Corvette Club. We end the fair with a tribute to our veterans and showcase military vehicles, more color guards and numerous motorcycles.”
Stengel is looking forward to the special upcoming events, as he has always enjoyed going to the state fair.
“I began showing livestock at the state fair in 1949 and, through the years, I’ve never missed very many of them.”
Stengel said the award brings it all into perspective.
“One appreciates that they’re thinking of you and the future — so all fairs may continue on for next generations,” Stengel said. “And some of my family members will be there, so that will make it even better.”
Stengel also has received certificates of appreciation every five years from the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers during his terms in office.
Nine other grand marshals also are being honored during this year’s state fair run.
The fair opened Friday and continues through Labor Day on the state fairgrounds in Grand Island.