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Heartbreak on the hoof: Big livestock show in January canceled

Heartbreak on the hoof: Big livestock show in January canceled

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Bill Ogg

The cancellation of the NebraskaN Livestock Show, set to take place in January in Grand Island, deals a major blow to both the Grand Island economy and the cattle industry.

The event, which was scheduled to run for 16 days at the Fonner Park/State Fair livestock complex, was canceled Thursday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It hurts bad,” said Bill Ogg, executive director of the Nebraska State Fair.

The NebraskaN Livestock Show was meant to be an alternative to the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Organizers of that well-known event announced Sept. 14 that the 2021 event had fallen victim to COVID-19 in the Denver area. Now the same thing has happened in Grand Island.

The decision to cancel the Grand Island event was made by the Grand Island Livestock Complex Authority in cooperation with “a cadre of folks who were working their heart and soul out to make this thing happen,” Ogg said.

Those people, who live all across the state and even outside Nebraska, were “really wanting a substitute for Denver,” Ogg said. They felt the Grand Island plan was “worth their sweat equity and some hard dollars to try and make it happen.”

GILCA and other local organizers wanted the event for Grand Island “and the greater Nebraska community,” Ogg said. The livestock show would have had a “huge economic impact in a relatively slow time of year.”

The loss of the January event is a significant hit to many registered breeders and stockmen. “This is their annual point of sale,” Ogg said, referring to the annual January stock show.

Not having an opportunity to market their livestock “sends a ripple through that whole industry that could be devastating,” Ogg said.

The day after the National Western Stock Show announced the 2021 cancellation, GILCA began exploring the potential of hosting a one-time livestock show.

Grand Island representatives “invited them to come here with as much of their event as they could,” Ogg said.

The National Western Stock Show couldn’t make the move because of its obligations to the city of Denver.

So National Western Stock Show officials said, “Well, in support of the beef cattle industry and some commercial vendors, why don’t you guys try something here?” and the Denver entity would endorse the Grand Island event, Ogg said.

The cancellation is financially harmful to many commercial vendors, he said.

Traditionally, many exhibitors attend the Cowboy Christmas event in Las Vegas and then go on to Denver.

Those were their two trade shows “for the entire year,” Ogg said.

The cancellation of the Denver and now Grand Island show will have a big negative impact on “many, many folks,” Ogg said.

A GILCA news release sent out Thursday said, “We have been truly gratified by the overwhelming support for the show from the national livestock community, the City of Grand Island and the citizens and businesses of Nebraska, and planning was well underway.”

It grieves organizers “that we will not be able to host this event for the community of Grand Island,” the release says.

“Our priority has always been protecting the health and safety of event attendees and Grand Island residents. We had instituted guidelines and other safety measures that we felt addressed those needs,” according to the release. “However, with the rise of the epidemic nationally and the recent guidelines that have been enacted in Nebraska and other states, the logistics of putting on a quality event is no longer possible.”

All entry fees and vendor reservations that have been received will be returned.

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