• Melissa Rosales

Brown County Fair And Rodeo Rides On Despite Pandemic

Published for NET News-Nebraska's NPR and PBS Station


(Photo Courtesy John Valeriani)



This past weekend, the Brown County Fair celebrated its 85th anniversary in Johnstown, in north central Nebraska. People came from all over the state to watch the rodeo, socialize, and eat barbecue. The event highlighted how some areas of the state are ready to get back to normal.  


Branda Marsh is from Thedford, Nebraska and competed in the barrel racing competition.

"I've come to Johnstown every year for, I don't know, as long as I can remember," Marsh said. "I've been rodeoing on all weekend, started out at Broken Bow on Friday, Pleasanton last night, here today, and back to Broken Bow tomorrow."


For her, this was an event she didn’t want to miss. 


"It is very important. If this wasn't happening during the pandemic, I would be very sad," Marsh said.


While a community like Johnstown is trying to do something normal, it’s difficult to balance safety and tradition. The event was outdoors and there were social distancing signs and sanitation stations, but virtually no one was wearing a mask. Dave Sherman is the president of the Brown County Ag Society. 


"Everybody's been taking precautions all summer long. I really haven't seen anything bad here. So I guess, everybody's just tired of it," Sherman said. "We kind of label this as the last fling until spring for rodeos. It’s our last big event of our local area. So it's a celebration of summer and all the friends and neighbors come here to socialize and celebrate summer."


He said it took a lot of planning, but having an event like this was important to the community. 


"It's 85 years going. I said with everything, we just held back until they reached level four, and then we got the okay going from all our higher ups and everybody we'd have to get an okay from," Sherman said. "We take this celebration very seriously so it's very, very keen to our hearts."

Brown County is in Phase 4 of reopening, which allows for larger gatherings.