Lincoln’s Fairgrounds Draws Visitors from Near & Far

by Amy Dickerson

No matter when you visit Lincoln, you’ll want to check out what is on the busy Lancaster Event Center (LEC) Fairgrounds schedule to see what’s happening at Nebraska’s 3rd most popular tourist attraction. This nationally-recognized venue is attracting international events with the recent addition of a National Event Campground and expanded Outdoor Arena Grandstand.

In 2021, LEC Fairgrounds “celebrated” its 20th anniversary as only a busy fairground would—by hosting the biggest event in its history with the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR). Over 30,000 unique visitors stayed 5-7 days each to watch 1,600 high school rodeo athletes from 43 states, 5 Canadian provinces and Mexico compete. The NHSFR was awarded Nebraska Tourism’s Event of the Year and Marketing Campaign of the Year. An economic impact study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found this event brought nearly $18 million in outside-of-state visitor spend in addition to the already over $40 million outside-of-county visitor spend in a typical year at the busy LEC.

Built in 2001, LEC Fairgrounds was originally founded by the Lancaster County Agricultural Society to provide a home for the growing annual Lancaster County Fair with year-round 4-H/FFA youth activities. Today over 2,000 youth and adult exhibitors participate annually in the now 10-day fair. Year-round, an estimated 80,000 youth compete in year-round ag-related competitions from equine & livestock to science fairs.  

Two thirds of visitors to 120 regional/national ag tourism events at the LEC Fairgrounds coming from outside the county. Horse, cattle, dog and other livestock shows draw visitors from all over the USA to compete, making up many of LEC Fairgrounds’ over 500,000 visitor days. Most of these animal events are free for visitors to attend and competitors are more than happy to talk with visitors and introduce them to their animals.

Ag business events at the fairgrounds are headlined by the annual Nebraska Ag Expo, which is the 2nd largest indoor ag show boasting 2,000 booths over 9 indoor acres. This event is increasing its focus each year on the latest in ag technology and startups in its new Innovation Hub exhibit.  This is a great place for investors, educators, and students to get involved in the latest ag tech trends.

Two hundred local community groups, nonprofits and small business events annually fill out the LEC Fairgrounds’ busy calendar, making in Lancaster County’s “largest community center” as well as on-call emergency center as happened in the pandemic.

To enjoy LEC Fairgrounds latest improvements—a National Event Campground and updated Outdoor Grandstand Arena—mark your calendars for July 2026 and 2027 when the NHSFR is set to return to Lincoln. Or if you’re an RV fan, be sure to check with your favorite RV association for upcoming conventions now booking in what is one of the USA’s top-10 largest event center campgrounds.

Here are the top 10 most popular events at the LEC Fairgrounds that could be a highlight for your next trip to Lincoln: 

Top 10 Shows to Visit

1. Nebraska Ag Expo (Dec)

2. Nebraska Deer & Game Expo (Jan)

3. General Tire Arenacross Outlaws (New 1/2023)

4. Nebraska Boat, Sport & Travel Show (Feb)

5. Nebraska Builders Home & Garden Show (Mar)

6. UNL College Rodeo Regional Championship (May)

7. Lancaster County Super Fair (July/Aug) 

8. Demolition Derby (Aug)

9. Two of top 20 Quarter Horse shows (June, Sept)

10. Over 100 horse, pet & livestock shows

See our online calendar and follow us on social media to plan your next trip to Lincoln to let the good times grow!

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