Attendance at this year’s Nebraska State Fair was likely down, but final figures coming later

September 5, 2018

LINCOLN — Attendance was likely down at this year’s Nebraska State Fair, but the official count — due to a change in accounting practices — won’t be known until later this month.

The fair ended its 11-day run on Monday, but fair officials said that wet weather, which caused some outdoor events to be moved or canceled, will likely result in lower attendance than last year’s 379,108. That was the highest gate count since the fair moved to Grand Island in 2010.

“The big factor this year was the weather,” said Chris Kircher, chairman of the State Fair Board.

The fair has traditionally released the final attendance numbers on the day after the fair concludes. But this year, under new State Fair Manager Lori Cox, an in-house director of finance was hired, replacing a contractor who had handled the accounting work.

Kircher and Cox said that change, along with the addition of an independent auditor to double check the figures, will delay the final attendance figures until at least Sept. 21.

“We are applying some new technology to get an absolutely accurate read,” Cox said.

Procedures for calculating attendance vary widely at state fairs across the county. In the past, fair officials have grumbled that it was unfair to compare Nebraska State Fair attendance with visitor counts at other fairs, because Nebraska works harder to get an accurate gate count.

Cox and Kircher said they were encouraged that surveys indicated that visitor satisfaction with the Nebraska fair was up and that it appeared that visits from people who lived more than 76 miles from Lincoln had also increased.