OMAHA, Nebraska — The Nebraska State Fair is going into its fifth year in Grand Island with a new exhibit hall featuring a 6,500-gallon aquarium, a shooting gallery and a hands-on exhibit about farming.
"We expect those exhibits to provide the wow factor at the fair this year," State Fair Executive Director Joseph McDermott said in the run-up to its Friday opening.
The exhibits in the new Nebraska Building were put together by the state Game and Parks Commission and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extension program.
The aquarium and wildlife exhibit at the old Lincoln fairgrounds was always popular, so McDermott expects big crowds at the new exhibit.
Another new draw this year is a marathon race on Saturday that will allow competitors to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Impromptu performances and street performers will be staged throughout the fairground, and more than 200 food vendors will be ready to quench appetites with sundaes-on-a-stick, fried Nutella and other calorie-rich treats.
Hundreds of volunteers will again welcome fairgoers and help them navigate the fair.
Officials at the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce said volunteer recruitment started off slowly this year, but once the need was publicized last month plenty of people stepped forward.
"They responded to the call, so we're going into Friday feeling pretty good," said Cindy Johnson, president of the Chamber.
Johnson said the Chamber coordinates the volunteer program to help make sure people have a positive experience. She said it's gratifying to see the fair succeeding in Grand Island.
The fair moved to its new home in 2010 after more than a century in Lincoln to free up the old fair site for a University of Nebraska research park. The move also put the fair closer to the state's geographic center.
Since the move, attendance at the fair — which totaled nearly 335,000 last year — has been higher, on average, than fair attendance during the event's last decade in Lincoln.
Nebraska State Fair: http://www.statefair.org