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Hunters flock to Corn Palace: banquet to draw 600

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The largest Pheasants Forever membership banquet in the nation is expecting 550 to 600 people.

Pheasant County, Mitchell’s chapter of Pheasants Forever, kicks off its banquet at 5 p.m. today at the Corn Palace. Tickets, which cost $50, can be purchased at Cabela’s, Leader Sporting Goods and the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce. If enough are still available, tickets can also be purchased at the door.

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“This is all for the birds and youth,” eighth-year chapter President Dave Allen said. “The birds have to have habitat and we have a program for youth called ‘No Child Left Indoors.’ We want to get them outdoors and away from the computers. That’s where the money that’s raised goes.”

This is the 28th annual membership banquet for Pheasant Country, the largest of 730 Pheasants Forever chapters in the United States and Canada.

Starfire Band takes the stage at 5 p.m., a roast pheasant dinner will be served starting at 7 p.m., and a live auction starts at 8 p.m. There will also be a silent auction and several raffles. Allen said at least 25 guns will be given away at the banquet.

“This year for the first time we’re also having a veterans’ raffle,” Allen said. “Whoever has served in the armed forces will get in a free raffle.”

Allen said the chapter received about $1,900 worth of donated merchandise for prizes in the veterans’ raffle. He noted that Anderson Kennels, of Mitchell, donated a black lab for the live auction.

“This town is very generous for supporting banquets,” Allen said. “I don’t know if people just want to support Pheasants Forever more, but people are just very generous.”

Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever, said the Mitchell banquet has ranked in the top two nationwide for money donated for each of the last five years.

“It’s incredible,” Vincent said. “The magic of the model is the dollars stay local. Every other dime besides the membership fee stays under the control of those local volunteers and they determine where the money goes.

“They’re helping fund some local farm bill biologist programs, they’ve helped with land acquisition in South Dakota and they’ve helped fund their legislative action out in Washington, D.C., to help fight for a bigger, stronger conservation program in the farm bill, so Mitchell has been one of the incredible chapters.”

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