Editor’s Note: A story in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Grandstand on the S.D. State Fairgrounds
HURON – Exchanging their vows at the South Dakota State Fair Grandstand made perfect sense for diehard racing fans Allen DeJean and Megan Benker.
They had known each other since their high school days, and they were engaged two years before they decided to become husband and wife. In all that time, summers were filled with enjoyable weekends helping out at the Dakota State Fair Speedway.
But a Grandstand setting for the nuptials was just one of the unusual aspects of the hot August day five years ago when they became Mr. and Mrs. DeJean.
“We’re both into racing huge, and have been for years,” she said. “I like theme stuff, so I thought a racing theme, and why not do it at the Grandstand?
“It just kind of made sense for us and as soon as I mentioned it to him he’s like, ‘Yep, that’s what we’re doing.’ He went for it,” Megan said.
Orville Chenoweth, the long-time promoter of the Dakota State Fair Speedway, presided.
“Orville married us,” she said. “We got him ordained online. He did the whole ceremony.”
For the rest of the day, he was known as “preach.”
After reciting their vows and Chenoweth’s declaration that they were now husband and wife, the newlyweds took a victory lap on the back of a race car.
So did the rest of the six-member wedding party, following behind as they all made their celebratory trip around the oval.
Butterflies are normal and expected at all weddings, and at this one there were a few more after the rings were exchanged, the kiss made it official and the wine toast was over. “We were a little worried it wouldn’t hold up with the courthouse, but it was fine,” Megan said. “We’re actually married. We’re legal.”
In line with the racing theme, she chose black and white as her colors. “Everything was checkered,” she said. “I had race flags up in my centerpiece.”
Close friend and State Fair employee Candi Briley, now the assistant manager, was her maid of honor.
“We did it the week before the fair, so I really put the stress on her for that,” Megan said.
Because the fair was so close, “the gyro guy” was here and agreed to cater the food.
She’s a big fan of cheese. “So instead of a cake we did a pile of cheese to make it look like a cake,” she said.
No, not a cheesecake in the traditional sense. “But it was an actual cake made of cheese.”
In the neighborhood of 300 guests witnessed the ceremony, many of them sitting in the now-century-old Grandstand.
Megan’s son was five at the time. “He got really bored while we were setting up, so we took his bike and he rode his little, tiny bike all around the track,” she said. “It was adorable.”
A year or so after the wedding, Megan went to work for Chenoweth at Dakota Promotions. She’s now at Hurd Alignment, working side by side with her husband.
Like other diehard stock car racing fans, they miss their summer weekends at the State Fair track, helping out where needed. Chenoweth has retired, and so far a new promoter has not been found.
It’s not Huron, but with it being so much a part of who they are, the DeJeans are among fans who travel to Miller and Aberdeen for races.
Couples often reaffirm their vows. Would the DeJeans do it again? At the Grandstand?
“Would we do it again?” Megan answered, laughing. “Yeah, maybe we’ll go back for an anniversary there, maybe, huh, 10 years? Maybe. Throw a big party. Maybe have some corn dogs or something, a fair theme?”
She loves themes.
But won’t forget to bring Dizzy, their pug, again.
Every wedding needs a flower girl.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MEGAN DEJEAN
The happy couple following their unique wedding, held at the Grandstand on the S.D. State Fairgrounds.
Next, the DeJean wedding party prepares to depart after their wedding ceremony at the Grandstand.