Nebraska State Fair attendance up almost 5 percent over last year

Attendance numbers were up this year at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, and fair officials say they will continue making upgrades aimed at increasing those figures.

Joseph McDermott, executive director of the fair, said Tuesday that attendance at the annual event, which ran from Aug. 25 through Monday, was 379,108, up 18,001 over 2016 for an almost 5 percent increase.

The 2017 attendance is about 10,000 fair-goers shy of the record number of 389,171 established in 1997 in Lincoln, he said. The fair moved to Grand Island in 2010.

“Our numbers this year are far better than expected, and is a testament to the hard work the State Fair staff puts in to create such phenomenal results,” McDermott said.

The largest single day for attendance in 2017 was Aug. 26, when 62,954 turned out.

McDermott said 17 percent of fairgoers who participated in a survey said 2017 was their first trip to the fair, while 45 percent said they attended the event each year.

Sixty percent of those attending the fair said they lived in central Nebraska, he said, and 20 percent said they were from the Lincoln and Omaha areas.

“We will continue to work on our attendance,’’ said Chris Kircher, chairman of the State Fair Board.

Long lines, especially at concerts, slow security checks, and additional seating and more shade from the hot sun were among issues that fairgoers urged officials to work on for next year, he said.

“We think there are some measures to get people in and out faster,’’ Kircher said about the concerts.

He said country star Brad Paisley drew just more than 6,000 fans to his concert, while Joan Jett and Lynyrd Skynyrd attracted about 3,000 each.

The big draw, Kircher said, was Pentatonix, an a cappella quintet that won NBC’s season 3 “The Sing-Off.’’ Pentatonix drew 12,843 fans, he said.

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