The Valley County Fairgrounds is a staple destination in Valley County. Events held at the grounds have been bringing people together for decades from both near and far.
The first Valley County Fair was held in 1902. The site was originally a racetrack that hosted stock car races in the 50’s and 60’s until the grandstand was torn down.
In the 1970’s, Alex Martens, the Valley County Extension Educator, either retired or passed away, so the Fair Board and Dorothy Palser, the Extension Office Manager of 37 years, ran the fair. This was the only time this happened in the history of the fair, and some people said it was the best fair ever attended. Palser later retired in 1995 but her presence lives on at the fairgrounds as the current exhibit hall is named in her honor.
Today the 10-person Valley County Fair Board (also known as the Loup Valley Ag Society) still works to achieve the same goal as years past: to maintain the Valley County Fairgrounds and make the Valley County Fair the best possible fair for our community and 4-Hers now and for many years to come. They strive to make the fair better each year to continue to challenge and inspire 4-H participants.
The Fair Board’s goal to improve the event each year has been made evident with the addition of the Saturday evening concerts in collaboration with Bull Rush Investment Club. Jason Pritchett is headlining this year’s concert with opening performances by Prodigal Son, Lost County Road and Dylan Bloom.
Other additions to the Valley County Fair within the past few years has included the BBQ Cookoff hosted on Saturday, the Community Pancake Feed hosted by the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning and ever-changing additions to the kids’ activities during the Fair Booster Fun Night on Thursday like this year’s free traveling train!
In addition to the Valley County Fair, the Loup Valley Ag Society also hosts their annual Wine Tasting event, mud drags, rodeo events and Loup Valley Livestock Challenge. They are also involved in the Valley County Home & Ag Expo, Farm Safety for Just Kids and other activities held throughout the year.
The improvements to the grounds and facilities make the site a popular place for graduation and wedding receptions as well as other celebrations for a minimal rental fee.
Their strong roots within the community, their authentic passion for agriculture and deep desire to support and serve the youth of Valley County is evident in their personal stories about their history and love for the Valley County Fairgrounds. Learn more about each member below.
Mark Knight – President
“I have been involved with the Valley County Fair since the 1970‘s when I was a member of the Triple T 4-H Club and was involved in numerous projects, including Market Steer. I became a member of the fair board on January 1, 2014 taking the place of retiree, Dan Spilinek. In 2001, my daughter, Jordyn, began 4-H at the Valley County Fair and we have been a fair family every year until my son, Tanner, showed at his last fair in 2017. My wife, Brenda, has been on the 4-H council and a 4-H leader for numerous years, so to be on the fair board was something I felt would be a great service to the community, the county fair and most importantly, the 4-H kids. These kids are why we, as a fair board, do what we do. The friendships my family has gained while at the county fair will be with us our entire lives and I believe my children are better prepared for life because of the experiences they had caring for their animals, preparing their projects and showing at the fair.”
Tad Melia – Vice President
“I have been on the Valley County fair board for eight years. When my children were in 4-H, I used to help at the fair. I really enjoyed watching the kids and their families have a great time. I decided to get on the fair board to help keep the Valley County Fairgrounds and fair a great place for the community to enjoy. By helping the fair board come up with bigger and better ideas, I believe we have provided a place that our great surrounding communities are willing to support and be proud of.”
Kathy Waldmann – Secretary
“This is my second year as a member of the Valley County Fair Board. In 2009 I became recording secretary for the board. When my husband, Pat retired after 34 years on the board I became a member of the board and the secretary. In 1995, three fair board members’ wives decided we needed more activities at the fair so we organized the Valley County Fair Boosters. We have had entertainment at the fair since then. My mother in law, Pauline Waldmann, started the “Trying our Best 4-H Club” about 60 years ago and the club is still active today. My daughter and one of my grandchildren were members of that club. I also enjoyed being in 4-H and enjoy being a part of the fair and helping and watching my three grandkids show their projects.”
Jeff Waltman – Treasurer
“Don Walker invited me to a few fair board meetings in 1979 to see what the fair board was all about. My share of stock of the Loup Valley Ag Society is dated November 12, 1979. I started on January 1, 1980, replacing Bob Todsen, so I have been on the board for 39 years and have been Treasurer for most of those years. I do it for the kids and 4-H. What a great program for kids to learn responsibility for their projects, gain experience with Parliamentary Procedure and the opportunity to do so many things with other kids in the community and state. I was in the Loup Valley Livestock 4-H club when I was young having market beef, participated in livestock judging and held offices for the club meetings. I vividly remember getting homesick at camp in Halsey! What a helpless feeling. I also remember trying to bring a salamander home in my shirt pocket. I had a straight pin holding it in. I wonder if Mrs. Collins ever found my little buddy in her car? I haven’t been homesick since. What a great program!”
“I have been on the Loup Valley Ag Society board for 36 years and it has been very enjoyable. The most important thing I believe that has made it fun is the interaction with the youth of Valley County. I have enjoyed watching them from their first time at the fair to growing into adults who are confident and proud. There has been a lot of change at the fairgrounds over the years with the addition of the extension office being moved and the addition of the outdoor arena. I have lived in Valley County for 42 years with my wife, Barb, at North Loup. Both of my kids have been involved with 4-H in Valley County as well as at the state fair and Aksarben in their time in 4-H. I do believe in the future of our youth and that we will be in good hands with their leadership that they have learned at the fair.”
“I joined the Loup Valley Ag Society in 2005. Growing up in Sherman County, I didn’t realize how much the fair board did to organize the fair. I thought it just did itself. As I have grown, I have developed a great appreciation for the board member’s efforts and dedication. 4-H has been very important in my wife’s family, as well as mine. We were both very active in 4-H growing up. I showed calves at local, state, and national shows. I met my wife at UNL as we were both on the 1998 Livestock Judging Team. This experience created our passion for producing and raising show livestock. We now raise show calves and pigs for our children to show. We enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of trying to produce the next great one. I have 3 children, Riley – 15, Bailey – 12, and Jovie – 4. They keep us busy with all of their school’s sports teams and extra-curricular activities. We try to get to as many livestock shows as possible. So it is safe to say we are always going somewhere, usually running late; but some day it will be gone and then we will miss it.”
“I work for Heartland Bank and Wolf Auction and Real Estate. I also have a commercial cow calf operation. My wife, Angie, and I have 3 children, Cole, who works for Terrapin Brewery in Athens, GA, Cade, who will be in his 3rd year at UNL, and Cora, who is in her 2nd year at Nebraska Wesleyan. I have been on the fair board for 10 years and first got on the board to help bring in some rodeo events to better utilize our wonderful facilities. Since joining, we have brought in the Central Nebraska Jr. High Rodeo and the Valley County Fair Bull riding event, which will be Wednesday, August 1, 2018.”
“As a past member of the All Around 4-H club in Arcadia, I participated mainly in the 4-H horse project area, dog project, and woodworking, along with the 4-H music contest. I was a member of the horse judging team that placed 1st at the World Quarter Horse show in Oklahoma, and our music group, the Ghost Riders, was picked as one of the Top 7 groups at the state fair. Wade Bauer and I were asked to take the places of Jim Trotter and Kenny Dorsey who retired after many years of service to The Loup Valley Ag Society. I have been on the board since January 2009, but my work on the fairgrounds started at a much younger age. As I had grown up with Dad being on the board, I knew it would be an honor to be part of this great organization. I remember a lot of great times while helping my Dad on the fair grounds and that a lot would get done in a very short time. It seemed like we were always in a hurry to get to the fair, and I specifically remember one time when we were late because State Patrolman, Jerry Schmidt, decided to slow us down even more. I have a lot of great memories of the old cable arena with the wooden grand stand. We showed our horses there, had rodeos, motorcycle races, micro midget races and of course, demo derbys. As I got older, I went from helping paint and clean up that arena to filling in as a flagger for the demolition derby one year at the ripe old age of 16. I learned during the demo derby, never argue with a woman. Growing up in 4-H, having all my kids participate in 4-H and the last 8 ½ years on the Fair Board has given me many great experiences and life lessons that have made me a better person. Watching kids grow and succeed in 4-H and FFA is the greatest reason for me to be on the Valley County Fair Board. As I work with the board to continually repair and improve the fairgrounds, I remember the 4-H motto I learned as a kid and apply it to the decisions I make today as an adult. I strive, as a Valley County Fair Board Member to always Make the Best Better.”
“I became a member of the fair board on January 1, 2018. I joined the board because I grew up enjoying the fun of competing in 4-H and spending time at the fairgrounds. I wanted to make sure that continued. Spending time with kids and people during events at the fairgrounds has truly been a fun experience for me. I began showing beef when I was 7 years old and participated in the shooting events at the Valley County Fairgrounds. Fun fact…with the exception to the livestock aspect of fair, one of my favorite parts is the photography aspect and getting to see people’s pictures they submit and the unique quality and perspective of every picture.”
“I became a member of the fair board on January 1, 2018. I decided to be on the board to support the great youth of Valley County and to continue my involvement with the fair. It has been a great experience and I love to see how much the Valley County Fairgrounds does. In 2001, I began showing cattle, hogs, and sheep at the Valley County Fair with the 4-H club, Ord Livestock. I also showed numerous static exhibits. I am blessed to be back in the community and helping the next generation of agriculturalists.”