Look for mechanical bulls, 30 Nebraska beers and lots of food at 2018 State Fair

August 24, 2018

A pasta bar, Nebraska beers and Kelly Clarkson will be among the draws at the 2018 Nebraska State Fair.

The 11-day fair starts Friday in Grand Island, with rides, exhibits, displays and lots and lots of food. And, because this is an election year, two political debates will be held during the fair.

At 9 a.m. Monday, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican from Valentine, and Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould, a Democrat, will debate.

Then, at 3 p.m. on Aug. 30, Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist will spar. Both debates, sponsored by The World-Herald and KMTV, will be held in the Bosselman Conference Center on the grounds of the State Fair.

Food is always at the heart of a great state fair, Executive Director Lori Cox said. Visitors can try salsa, honey, pickles, soups, hot cocoa, seasoning blends, jellies, barbecue sauces, popcorn, sunflower seeds, marinades and more.

This year’s fair will feature a few new twists, such as a build-your-own pasta bar, Cox said.

“There are always new foods, but in particular, we have gourmet mac and cheese at the pasta bar,” Cox said. “What’s different is that it’s more of a buffet where you get to create your own pasta dish instead of someone just handing you something already prepared.”

Many concerts also are scheduled. Among the music headliners performing during the fair’s run are Kelly Clarkson, Sugarland and the Righteous Brothers.

Cox said the entertainment experience will be enhanced by a tavern area adjoining the Bristol Windows entertainment stage. The area will include a mechanical bull, a basketball hoop and other games.

“We will also have a tap house with more than 30 Nebraska beers on tap,” Cox said. “There will be lots of areas to relax as well as more interactive experiences to enjoy.”

Cox, who is in her first year as executive director, said she’s been impressed by the quality of the fairgrounds infrastructure. The buildings where livestock will be shown are equal to or better than any other fair in the nation, she said.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln representatives will join fairgoers in celebrating the state’s people, products and talent, said Kathleen Lodl, associate dean of Nebraska Extension and 4-H program administrator.

“The Nebraska State Fair showcases the pride we have for our state and its people, including youth,” Lodl said. “One in three youth in the state are active in Nebraska 4-H, and the fair gives them an opportunity to share the innovative activities they’ve been working on throughout the year.”

Nebraska 4-H exhibits at the fair will offer youths a preview of careers in agriculture and other industries in the state.

Youths are encouraged to attend cooking demonstrations at the Raising Nebraska kitchen Sept. 1 and 2. Kaylee Gill, former Hall County 4-H member and research chef at Campbell Soup Co., will provide demonstrations featuring county fair-inspired items. Gill will share how exploring the science of baking and pastry allowed her to further her career.

The InMoov humanoid robot — a 3D-printed life-size robot — will be on display in the 4-H/FFA building throughout the fair. Nebraska 4-H youths will team up to build the robot, which will be used to test a social learning network.

Visitors can download the 4-H at Nebraska State Fair app to keep track of events, results and exhibit maps. Beyond 4-H activities, fair visitors can sample many Nebraska foods at the university’s Food Processing Center display in the 4-H/FFA Building.

Fans of the popular lawn-and-garden television series “Backyard Farmer” are invited to attend a live taping Wednesday in the Raising Nebraska building. A question-and-answer session with panelists is scheduled from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., followed by the taping at 4 p.m. The episode will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 on NET.

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