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Dakotafest plans falling into place

Visitors check out Dakotafest on Aug. 15, 2017 in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

With less than a month before Dakotafest, schedules and plans for the annual agriculture showcase are coming together.

That includes the lineup of political candidates, exhibitors and events, which will be held Aug. 21-23 in Mitchell.

The highlights include a pair of political forums on Aug. 22, including the South Dakota gubernatorial debate at 10 a.m., followed by a U.S. House candidate forum at 1 p.m. Both of those events will be held in the Dakotafest Education Building.

The committed gubernatorial candidates include Democratic Party candidate State Sen. Billie Sutton, Libertarian Party candidate Kurt Evans and Constitutional Party candidate Terry LaFleur, with Republican Party Candidate U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem as the notable omission at this point. Dakotafest Show Manager Amy LaTessa said Noem has been invited but has not confirmed her participation. A spokesperson for Noem said her August calendar has not yet been finalized.

The U.S. House forum will include Republican Dusty Johnson, Democrat Tim Bjorkman, Libertarian George Hendrickson and Independent Ronald Wieczorek. LaTessa said having the forums Wednesday at the event makes the most sense for both the candidates and the show's organizers.

"We still have some things to work on in the next month and we're finalizing a lot of our schedule but it looks like it's going to be another great show," she said. "I know we're getting close to being sold out with the exhibitor spaces."

There's also the road construction on South Burr Street and continuing work in the East Spruce Street area, which has forced the detour of drivers seeking to get to the Dakotafest area, along with Mitchell Technical Institute and the Mitchell Livestock Auction.

Exhibitors are being directed to get off Interstate 90 at Exit 330 on the west edge of town and make the three-mile drive over on 256th Street to 411th Avenue and then north to the Schlaffman Farm, where the event is held because there are width restrictions in place for the Burr Street construction project.

"We all deal with traffic issues, so it might take a little longer to get around," LaTessa said. "But once you're there, you'll be happy you are."

A number of other events are still be finalized, including educational sessions on health and safety. The always popular free ice cream will be offered at noon daily by South Dakota State University Extension.

And in the one of the most competitive events at Dakotafest, the pig races have been expanded to twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. There's also a plan for a large farm mural that can be colored in by showgoers each day, which will measure 16 feet long by 5 feet tall.

"It is a big event for the area and we're happy to be a big part of so many producers' plans each August. It's a big deal for the 500 exhibitors to interact with their customers," LaTessa said. "We want to try to touch on educational topics that are helpful and that are timely and that the whole family can come and take part in."

Advance online tickets are available now for $7, discounted from the $10 price at the show gate. Those can be purchased through the show's website: dakotafest.com.

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