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Jordan Stromberger, 16, leads Babakanoosh during judging in the 4-H Market Beef Show Parade of Champions. (Robert Becker)
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  • State Fair expects strong numbers after last day

    By the time you read this, the 385 pounds of butter pig, butter piglets and butter-boy handler, all carved by Pennsylvania sculptor Jim Victor, will be recycled into a biodiesel recipe retooled for the occasion by Bob Byrnes of Oakland.

    Diana Kelley’s Dippin’ Dots Ice Cream of the Future will be gone from the fair marketplace complex and on its way down the highway.

    And the state fair board — grateful for its best single attendance day in six years Sunday and near perfect weather and another big crowd on its closing Monday — will be preparing to announce what is likely to be good news on overall attendance at the Nebraska State Fair.

    Fair Board Chairman Steve Kruger of Arlington listened to a long list of troubleshooting concerns from his board peers on the fair’s final day — including overflowing parking lots, overstuffed garbage cans and a dip in lemonade sales — and said signs of strained resources actually added up to good news.

    “I think this is the kind of conversation that shows we had a great fair,” Kruger said after a special board meeting.

    The unusual absence of oppressive, late summer heat, all the way from the fair’s opening Friday through Labor Day, was certainly a factor in lower lemonade consumption and higher attendance.

    Admissions numbers were already up 4.3 percent through the second Friday.

    Board members analyzing signs of success Monday also pointed to the return of satisfied fairgoers from last year and a decision to offer free parking for the first time as among other contributors.

    Van Neidig of Battle Creek said a new policy that allowed people entering through the 27th Street gate to park without having to reach for their wallets helped establish a good customer relationship.

    “They parked and then they paid, and I think that’s a huge psychological advantage,” he said.

    There were certainly no complaints coming Monday from 4-H’ers Jordan Stromberger — who just happens to be from Champion, Neb. — as she became the grand champion in the 4-H Market Beef Show.

    The same goes for Mason Shaw, 12, of Benedict, and Molly Pracheil, 16, of Dorchester, who shared that distinction in the 4-H Market Swine Show.

    Tears rolled down the cheeks of the 16-year-old Stromberger as she clutched the lead rope attached to a 1,325-pound black steer named “Babakanoosh” and accepted a hug from her father, Bart.

    “It’s a big show for me. I’m just excited,” said the junior at Chase County High School in Imperial.

    She won in her first try in the fair’s premier 4-H livestock event with an Angus-Maine Anjou cross. She said her steer was named for a substitute word for hello used in the movie “The Wedding Crashers.”

    “I had good hopes,” Stromberger said of an animal who Bart Stromberger said was ushered into an air-conditioned barn during the worst of the summer’s heat to keep him in top condition. “I like the way he’s built. He’s got good structure.”

    Elsewhere at State Fair Park, Kelley of Dippin’ Dots and Denise Shandera, seller of shaved-ice concoctions for Malibu Refreshments, said larger crowds helped compensate for day after day of cool weather and proportionately fewer parched palates.

    “Business has been pretty steady,” said Kelley, a veteran fair vendor from Brownville, Texas.

    Butter sculptor Victor kept even cooler inside the glass confines of his carving station over at Ag Hall. It was 55 degrees there to keep his results in presentable condition.

    As Victor looked ahead to 6 p.m. and the removal of his and other exhibits, he also was thinking ahead to conversion of his handiwork into an energy purpose.

    If it works in biodiesel, it might also work as heating fuel, he said. “I’m thinking about how I can heat my house.”

    Back in fair board ranks, a building committee met Monday to do more of the preliminary work that is likely to result in destruction of livestock holding and exhibition space near the Bob Devaney Sports Center and the start of construction of a new livestock exhibition building farther east as soon as 2007.

    That is expected to free up space for as many as 1,200 parking spots for Cornhusker athletic events and Lincoln Stars hockey at the nearby Ice Box.

    Fair Board Chairman Kruger said committee members were talking with FFA and other exhibitors and “accumulating numbers on how large a facility we might need.”

    As matters stood Monday, “it will probably be October before you hear something real definite on that,” he said.

    Reach Art Hovey at 523-4949 or

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    here's to next year wrote on September 05, 2006 8:33 PM:"Don't blame the parking problems on the people directing traffic. I personally happen to know personally two of the people working at the fair this year, maybe did know there wasn't any parking, but they were doing the job they were told to do by the higher-ups. Let's lay the blame where it belongs. It most certainly does not belong at the feet of those people doing the best with what they had to work with, working no less than 9 hours at a time without any breaks rain or shine, 9 hours being a short day."

    Bruce wrote on September 05, 2006 2:36 PM:"I recommend that they preserve the Industrial Arts Building. I understand it is the oldest building left on the Fair Grounds. We need to keep this building. We need to take pride in out heritage. This is a very unique building as it is 3-sided. They need to use some of the lottery money to fix the roof of this historic building. Please keep this building. I also hope they keep the 4-H Building as it was built by the WPA in the 1930s."

    Jan wrote on September 05, 2006 1:07 PM:"Great fair. I can't wait to go back next year."

    Deb wrote on September 05, 2006 12:08 PM:"The parking on Sunday was utterly ridiculous!! They were waving us to park, knowing there were no spots to park in. We ended up parking really close to the road down by the 27th street entrance. As we walked up, we told the fair workers that there were no places to park and they should quit sending cars down that way. The reply we got was, "we KNOW there are no places to park." Other than that, our fair experience this year was great. We actually went twice!"

    Way to Go wrote on September 05, 2006 11:47 AM:"It looks like the State Fair is on it's way to the way it used to be. This was a great step forward. I was disappointed by the move of the Korney Korner as well. They should have put a sign up for one of the biggest staples at the fair. However, I'm sure there was good reason. There is always room for change. The State Fair did an EXCELLANT job making the grounds look terrific with what they had to work with. I'm excited to see what the future State Fair Grounds will look like once they get the new buildings and update the old ones. "

    renovate or move wrote on September 05, 2006 11:06 AM:"I hope that the new director either decides to renovate the historic brick buildings (my choice), or if they're going to tear them down to build new ones, lets just move it to 84th and swap some land with the University. Either way, the boarded up old buildings (and even the ones that are barely still open) are just sad to see how little care has been taken of them."

    Donna wrote on September 05, 2006 10:18 AM:"Kudo's to all involved in pulling it altogether. Can't imagine why we need to spend $109,000 for a new manager when the interim staff did such a remarkable job. Let's not let someone come in and make to many changes just for the sake of change and then leave the great state of Nebraska in a short time. "

    GMP wrote on September 05, 2006 9:55 AM:"They moved my favorite concessions!! For as long as I remember, the Korney Korner and Banana Man were in the same place, and this time, after parking, paying, and taking the shuttle to the food, we ended up walking to the other end again to find the best food at the fair (corn on the cob and deep fried oreos). We were very disappointed in this. Everything else was usual. Just put the food back the way it was!!!!"

    Larry wrote on September 05, 2006 8:43 AM:"Great fair this year! Let's see some plans to renovate some of the old buildings on the fair grounds. Don't tear those down and put up tin, please."