Nebraska State Fair
Coordinates: The Nebraska State Fair is a state fair held annually in Grand Island. It is an approximately eleven-day event; since the early 1990s, the fair ends on Labor Day. Prior to 2010, the fair was held in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The first state fair was a territorial fair held September 21–23 in 1859 in Nebraska City. The next fair was held in Nebraska City on October 7–9, 1868; this was the first fair held after Nebraska became a state. Nebraska City also hosted the 1869 fair.
In 1870 and 1871, it was held in Brownville. From 1872 until 1901 the fair switched back and forth between Lincoln and Omaha. In Omaha it was held at the Omaha Driving Park in North Omaha. The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben ("Nebraska" spelled backwards) was formed in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to keep the fair in Omaha. In 1901, the Nebraska Legislature named the Lancaster County Fairgrounds in Lincoln as the official home.
Struggling with lowered attendance, the Nebraska State Fair was thought by some to be threatened with termination in the early years of the new millennium. It was added as a voluntary donation recipient to the annual state income tax and attendance rose enough in subsequent years to give it a second wind.
In 2008 the Nebraska state lawmakers decided (LB1116), with the help of the University of Nebraska, which wanted the land cleared for a new Nebraska Innovation Campus, to move the fair to Grand Island. Several citizens filed a legal challenge to the law, contending that it "created a special benefit" for some of the groups and people involved in the plan. However, in May 2010 the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected those arguments and upheld an earlier dismissal of the lawsuit. There was also an attempt to overturn the state law by referendum, but the petition drive failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The state allocated $42 million to construct new facilities in Grand Island, building adjacent to the city's existing county fairgrounds, arena, and horse track at Fonner Park and the Heartland Event Center.
In The Wizard of Oz, the hot air balloon that had transported the Wizard to the Land of Oz—and which was to take him, Dorothy, and Toto to Kansas—has "State Fair Omaha" prominently written on it, as Omaha was one of the rotating host cities of the Fair until 1901. The movie is based on the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.