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Dakotafest sold just weeks before show

Vendors and attendees are pictured on the grounds of Dakotafest last August near Mitchell. (Daily Republic file photo)

It's official: Dakotafest has been sold, just weeks before the opening day of the annual agricultural trade show near Mitchell.

In a Monday press release, the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation confirmed its purchase of Cygnus Business Media's agricultural events and publications.

The Cygnus deal had been rumored prior to Monday's confirmation.

"This acquisition is the union of very strong brands that are deeply rooted in agriculture," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a written statement. "By joining the Farm Bureau family, these publications and events create additional opportunities for us to serve farmers, ranchers and the stakeholders looking to connect with them."

Farm Bureau Executive Vice President and Treasurer Julie Anna Potts said in a telephone interview Monday that the deal closed July 30 and terms of the sale are confidential. She said the closing was handled telephonically between the Farm Bureau's Washington offices and Cygnus offices in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

Potts said the Farm Bureau wanted the expertise of Cygnus' public events teams as well as the company's publications expertise.

"The Cygnus brands fit very well with the kinds of things we already do in our organization," Potts said.

"We think it's a win-win deal," she continued. "We will continue to provide a public platform for these events and publications and we get all of this wonderful communications expertise that we can use to enhance our operations so we can do more and better work for farmers and ranchers."

The events and publications will operate as part of IDEAg Group LLC, which will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which is a tax-exempt agricultural organization.

"We work on behalf of the agricultural industry, but we don't solicit donations as a public charity would," said Potts, who added she is planning a visit to Dakotafest this year.

Ray Bianchi, senior director of expos and events under the previous ownership, said he is thrilled to now be working for the Farm Bureau.

"This acquisition will enable us to build a business for agriculture by agriculture, and we're really excited about that."

Bianchi said that among other improvements, the changeover will allow for an increased educational component at agricultural shows.

The purchase includes five IDEAg branded farm shows: Dakotafest, in Mitchell; Farmfest, in Redwood County, Minn.; the Amarillo (Texas) Farm and Ranch Show; the Northern Illinois Farm Show, in DeKalb, Ill.; and the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference, in Altoona, Iowa. The latter show, which focuses on the growing impact of technology on agriculture, was started in 2012.

The Cygnus deal also includes the acquisition of Feed & Grain magazine and Case IH's Farm Forum magazine.

Bianchi and his management team formerly worked for Cygnus. All managers and staff of the events and publications have agreed to continue in their positions, the news release said.

Bianchi said Dakotafest will soon overtake Farmfest as the largest of the four farm shows. The Dakotafest show, which runs Aug. 20-22 at the Schlaffman Farm, just southeast of Mitchell, has signed 685 vendors for 2013 -- up from 585 a year ago. All sales booths are sold out.

Dakotafest began in 1996 with 318 vendors.