Farm animals, carnival rides and fried Oreos draw many visitors to the Nebraska State Fair. But, did you know that kids can climb aboard a pirate ship, become a human battery, see Jack Russell terrier and BMX bike tricks, and enjoy free musical acts all at the state fair?
It’s true! The fair is more than animals and carnival rides. The Nebraska State Fair gives kids opportunities to dream, expand their horizons and have one last blast of summer fun. It all starts Aug. 25 in Grand Island and continues through Labor Day (Sept. 4).
Chelsey Jungck, Events & Entertainment Director for the Nebraska State Fair, said this year’s fair entertainment includes past favorites plus new, exciting acts.
Returning favorites are the Butterfly Encounter, Hedrick’s Racing Pigs, a petting zoo and camel rides. Many events are free, but some charge a small fee (like the camel rides).
One of the new attractions is the Great American Duck Race, which allows audience members to race live mallard ducks. Contestants are chosen to hold one of four Mallard ducks and then release them after the starting horn sounds. Ducks race on their water track to the finish line, and prizes are awarded to winners.
“We are excited to have them here at the state fair finally,” Chelsey said.
The Omaha Children’s Museum will be returning to the fair this year with a new exhibit. Chelsey said the museum’s exhibit last year featured life-sized dinosaur replicas and was popular for young kids. This year, the museum will bring a pirate ship and five prehistoric sea creatures that move, including a megalodon, ammonite, mosasaurus, eslasmosaurus and a giant octopus.
The sea pirate exhibit will be in the center of Nebraska Building. On the south side of the Nebraska Building, the Game & Parks Commission exhibit features a tree house, indoor and outdoor streams, an aquarium with large fish and an old-fashioned shooting arcade and archery range. Chelsey also recommends that families visit the Raising Nebraska exhibit on the north end of the Nebraska Building.
“That is a really neat, highly interactive exhibit about Nebraska agriculture and your food and how it gets from the farm to your fork,” Chelsey said. It includes interactive games, a grain-bin movie theater, simulated combine rides, and a giant indoor center pivot that can be programmed.
While wandering the grounds of the state fair, guests can enjoy free strolling acts such as Matt’s Family Jam; Dan, Dan, The Farmer Man Comedy Rainmaker Show; The Recycle Cycle; the Conjurer Fortune Machine; and Rollo, the 10-foot man on stilts.
Other free entertainment includes eating contests (funnel cakes included!), BMX bike stunts, a high-diving show, performing pets and of course farm animals, including the world’s largest boar and the world’s largest steer. Kids may also be lucky enough to witness the birth of baby animals if they visit the barns at just the right time.
Chelsey said tickets were are still available for state fair concerts, such as Brad Paisley on Aug. 25 and Pentatonix on Aug. 26. Concert ticket holders must pay gate admission in addition to purchasing concert tickets.
State fair admission tickets are $12 for adults, $3 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids 5 and younger on weekends. However, Chelsey said advance tickets may be purchased for $9 for adults on the state fair website or at the Heartland Events Center prior to the fair.
She said families looking to save money and experience smaller crowds are encouraged to attend the fair during the weekdays. Tickets are $5 on Aug. 28 and 30, $2 on Aug. 29 (Two dollar Tuesday) and $3 on Aug. 31.
Chelsey also recommends downloading the Nebraska State Fair mobile app to help plan a visit to the fair.
Below is a list of a few of the fair highlights for kids and families. Most shows and attractions will be available every day of the fair. For more information or to see exact show times, visit www.statefair.org.
Nowear BMX Freestyle Stunt Team: This show features professional bicycle stunt show riders from the Midwest with the majority from Nebraska. The team has an extreme passion for what they do and are excited for every event to entertain fans!
Sinbad High Dive Show: Watch Sinbad in his quest to find the fabled Golden Pineapple. He and his band of Gold Seekers find the book of knowledge that directs the team to go to the Island of the Nebraska State Fair to finish their search.
Recycle Cycle and Show: The Recycle Cycle is created entirely of reclaimed or recycled parts making saving the planet fun and easy to understand. When the Cycle stops to perform, the area lights up with action, sound and excitement. Kids of all ages are encouraged to participate in any number of on-board ecological activities.
Panfilov’s Performing Pets: Andriy Bilobrov has trained five Jack Russell terriers to perform amazing accomplishments that go far beyond sofa destruction. The show will also include cat tricks.
Moto Maniacs – Where Mad Motorcycle Stunts and Audacious Acrobats Collide: Moto Maniacs is a stimulating and exhilarating live display where mad motorcycle stunts and audacious acrobats collide. It is thirty minutes of intensifying action for audiences of all ages. This act has been featured in performances across the globe including in venues such as: The Sydney Opera House, Disneyland in California, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses, Kiss In Concert and NBC’s Death Defying Thrills.
Food Eating Contests: Food eating contests take place daily on the Family Fun Zone Stage. Some of this year’s food contests include “Cactus Jacks Pulled Pork Sandwiches,” “The Kitchen Window’s Turkey Legs,” “King’s Funnel Cakes,” and “Rodney & Lisa’s Caramel Apples.” Participants of all ages can compete in the three age divisions: 12 and under, 13-18, and 19 and older. Registration takes place the day of the contest at the Welcome Center on a first-come, first-served basis with just 10 spots available in each age division. Weekday Contests – 4:45 p.m. Weekend Contests (Saturdays, Sundays and Monday, September 4) – 11:45 a.m. & 4:45 p.m.
AGtivity Acres: Children of all ages and their families are invited to participate in numerous free family games, contests and creative crafts every day of the fair. Daily games include Jumbo Checkers and Giant Jenga.
Public Power Zone: Unique and exciting presentations will reveal the power of electrical lines and show students how to respect electrical safety. Students can also interact with a wind turbine simulator, check out the solar cars, become a human battery and experience the saving power of an LED light bulb. The Edgerton Explorit Center will be the booth daily. An 811 Custom Corvette and Chopper will be on display Saturday, Sunday & Monday of Labor Day Weekend.