- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - Actual rain and the threat of severe weather have been blamed for a drop in attendance at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island last week.

Heavy rain early in the week turned some fairground parking lots into mud puddles and standing water. The National Weather Service said Grand Island had measurable precipitation on seven out of 11 days, from Aug. 22 through Sept. 1. Nearly three-quarters of an inch fell on Aug. 22 and more than three-quarters of an inch splashed down on Aug. 28.

Fair workers dumped gravelly rocks into the lots to ease the mud problems, and pumper trucks were deployed to vacuum up standing water in the lots and on the Fonner Park fairgrounds.

A forbidding forecast then came into play on Sunday, the second Sunday of the fair and traditionally its biggest day of attendance. Threats of 2-inch hail, 70 mph wind and heavy rainfall were topped by the forecast possibility of a tornado. Fair executive director Joe McDermott said it turned out that Grand Island had great weather on Sunday, but he said the forecast likely swayed people’s decisions to stay home at or least away from the fair.

Attendance was down 36 percent from last year’s final Sunday, officials said.

Potential parking projects will be examined over the coming months, McDermott said. Possibilities include grading work that could eliminate low spots and other efforts to improve drainage.

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