HURON — In eight categories — ranging from overall attendance to sales tax revenue — the 2018 South Dakota State Fair enjoyed single- and double-digit percentage increases.
In an upbeat semi-annual update to the City Commission, State Fair Manager Peggy Besch on Monday also briefed the board on significant fairgrounds maintenance and repair projects completed last year and those scheduled to begin this spring.
With 217,231 people attending, last year’s fair had the highest visitor numbers since 1997.
Camping revenue was up 23 percent, with a total of 1,984 campers. State Fair commissioners had changed the fees based on whether a campsite had full or partial hookups or offered dry camping which helps account for the sharp boost in revenue.
Carnival revenue was up 6 percent and Grandstand ticket sales were up 13 percent, Besch said. She said beer sales increased 13 percent, sales tax revenue was up 8 percent, 4-H livestock entries were up 3 percent and FFA entries were up 32 percent.
Growth is also generally occurring in off-season events on the fairgrounds, although the 110 events that were held last year was down 13 percent due to major ones that had to be cancelled because of the April snow storm and the discontinuation of the racing program.
Besch said there have been a few inquiries from possible interested promoters, but nothing substantial.
As soon as Wheel Jam is over in early June, preparations will begin for the second year of the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Huron, Besch said.
“We will once again need lots of volunteers for contestant check-in and the information booth, so if anyone is interested I would encourage them to reach out to the Huron Chamber for scheduling,” she said.
Besch said she and Laurie Shelton, president and chief executive officer of the Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau, recently attended the National High School Rodeo Association’s mid-winter meeting in Salt Lake City where they presented proposals to host the 2026/2027 and/or 2028/2029 finals.
Unfortunately, Huron was not chosen. Instead, the bids went to the Camp-plex in Gillette, Wyo., and the American Royal, which is moving from its current home in Kansas City, Mo., to Wyandotte County in Kansas where a $200 million facility is being built.
However, Huron will once again host the Red Power Round Up in 2020. Meetings are being held regularly and the event website will have to launch this spring.
Projects on the fairgrounds last year included progress on phase three of Grandstand improvements, such as reconfiguring the top side of the structure to accommodate six-foot stair walkways and landings, lighted aluminum handrails, aluminum guardrails, an Americans with Disabilities Act seating ramp, plus cleaning and painting of the canopy and support structure, a water-proof coating and new safety lighting.
More electrical outlets were installed at the Open Class Beef Barn and the gravel surface at Cotton King Avenue adjacent to the Nordby Exhibit Hall was replaced with an asphalt roadway. Asphalt roof replacement was done on the Poultry Barn, Senior Center and a couple bathhouses.
There was also an upgrade to 50 amp service at Coyote Campground to address the overloaded circuits during the fair.
Projects scheduled for this year include the replacement of deteriorating windows and the renovation of bathrooms in the Family Living Center.
An electrical service study will determine current deficiencies and lead to an upgrade to electrical distribution on the grounds. There will be design work done for an asphalt replacement on the Independent Midway, which will also incorporate electrical and drainage upgrades.
Also, additional units will be added to the campus-wide speaker alert system to include areas like Gate 13 which don’t already have speakers.
Meanwhile, commissioners approved petitions from the Huron School District to vacate alleys adjacent to and under the Huron Arena.
School officials requested that the east-west alley running along the south side of the building between Illinois and Wisconsin avenues be vacated for safety reasons.
Drivers frequently use that as a short cut because of the closing of Fifth Street with the Huron Event Center. But when kids walk out of the back door of the Arena they are immediately in the line of traffic.
School Business Manager Kelly Christopherson said the district plans to hire an engineer to prepare plans to reconfigure the parking lot. The narrow sidewalk along the south side of the Arena will be widened and the entrances/exits to the east-west alley between Illinois and Wisconsin avenues will be replaced with curb and gutter.
City plats show both the east-west alley and the north-south alley, the latter of which runs under the Arena, but vacation documents could not be found for the north-south alley. So, while abandoned, that alley was never officially legally vacated.
• Approved the regular status of Jacob Westover, police officer, on completion of his probationary period.
• Set Feb. 25 as the bid-opening date for street milling and overlay and crushing of stockpiled concrete and asphalt.
• Awarded a $62,900 bid to Lot Pros of Fergus Falls, Minn., for asphalt concrete crack sealing, and a $32,400 bid to Hawkins Inc. of Roseville, Minn., for water treatment chemicals.
• Approved second and final reading of a supplemental appropriation ordinance.
• Declared the street and traffic department shop at 467 First St. S.W. and the water-sewer distribution and collection shop at 215 Market St. S.W. as surplus and appointed an appraisal committee consisting of Mayor Paul Aylward, Commissioners Doug Kludt and Bryan Smith and Assistant City Engineer Dennis Bennett.
• Appointed Spencer White to the Business Improvement District board.