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Mickelson, Kneip statues are en route for Pierre's Trail of Governors

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PIERRE — Three more statues, including a likeness of the late George S. Mickelson, will be added Nov. 1 to the Trail of Governors, officials said Wednesday. A statue of the late Dick Kneip is scheduled for installation in 2015. He was South Dakota’s last elected Democratic governor.

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So far, six of the statues have been completed and placed throughout South Dakota’s capital city. Bill Janklow is the only one on the capitol complex. Five others — Arthur Mellette, Frank Farrar, Harvey Wollman, Walter Dale Miller and Harlan Bushfield — are in prominent places throughout the business and government district.

The Mickelson statue will be placed along Capitol Avenue near the Fighting Stallions memorial on the Capitol grounds. Fighting Stallions was erected in honor of the eight men including Mickelson who died in the 1993 state airplane crash.

The location of the Mickelson statue received approval Wednesday from the state Capitol Complex Restoration and Beautification Commission.

The statues cost $68,000 apiece. The money comes from private sources to the Trail of Governors Foundation.

“We appreciate the partnership we have with the city and with you,” Rick Jensen, the foundation president, told the commission members.

The statues of Mickelson, Robert Vessey and Peter Norbeck will be revealed to the public on Saturday, Nov. 1, as part of South Dakota’s events marking the 125th anniversary of statehood.

Statehood day is actually Nov. 2 but organizers didn’t want events to conflict with people’s traditional Sunday activities.

Vessey was an early organizer for what is now known as the South Dakota Retailers Association. His statue will be in front of the Retailers offi ce building along at the corner southwest of the Capitol.

Norbeck’s statue will be in Pierre’s downtown business district.

Chuck Schroyer, a retired lawyer who has long worked to promote Pierre, said Jensen and another businessman, Leroy Foster, recognized the impact of Rapid City’s presidents project to that community’s downtown.

Schroyer said they wanted to apply the concept to Pierre using statues of the governors. The foundation raises money and donates the statues and the Pierre city government takes responsibility for their upkeep.

“We’re very successful finding family members from all these governors,” he said.

The Dick Kneip statue will be presented in 2015, he said.

Jensen said the Trail of Governors is a $2.1 million project at this point. “Some are paying over time,” he said. South Dakota is the only state that has done this, according to Jensen. “The idea is to drive tourism, economic development,” Jensen said. He said they’re like “a treasure map” for people to follow.

“This is a great project. I love it,” Mayor Laurie Gill said. She is a member of the Capitol complex commission.

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Bob Mercer
Bob Mercer reports from the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre for The Daily Republic and other newspapers around the state.
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