Photo: Gov. Ricketts (center) at the Burwell Rodeo in July 2015.


A Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) will help partners in Garfield County make the visitor experience at Burwell Fairgrounds — home of “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo” since 1921 — a more enjoyable experience for cowboys and cowgirls of any age or ability.

The Garfield County Board of Commissioners and Frontier Fair Association received word this month of their successful co-application for $435,000 in CDBG Tourism Development funding. Combined with $310,000 in local match, the funds will go to support repairs and improvements at the fairgrounds to address recent storm damage while greatly improving the overall experience for people with mobility needs.

Construction on the historic venue — which through the years became a veritable whistle-stop for some of the biggest names on the professional rodeo circuit — will include the replacement of bleachers damaged during a July 2020 storm; added space for wheelchair seating; new accessible ramps and restrooms; concrete walkways; added accessible parking spaces; and a cover over the stands to shelter attendees.

The repairs come just in time for the Big Rodeo’s 100-year celebration starting July 28, which kicks off with a pre-rodeo celebration concert on July 3.

County officials collaborated with Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD) — who will serve as grant administrator for the CDBG funding — to bring the project to life.

“We are very grateful for being awarded the tourism grant funds for the Garfield County Frontier Fair Association project,” said Scott Krause, Garfield County board chairman in an interview with the Grand Island Independent. “We look forward to the valuable improvements that will be made at the fairgrounds with these funds.”

A federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program, CDBG can fund a wide array of project types to help communities tackle funding obstacles and improve citizens’ quality of life.

“CDBG gives us a degree of flexibility to help our community partners achieve their unique goals for local development,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins. “We are grateful to be able to provide this source of funding, which makes an incredible impact throughout the state of Nebraska.”

For more information about the CDBG program, including how to apply, visit