Opinion: Good pie hard to beatSpring has sprung in Mitchell. After one of the coldest winters in recent memory, things are starting to heat up. A robin may be the sign of spring in other parts of the country, but seeing more than one tourist family taking photos in front of the Corn Palace is a sure sign that May is almost here. Linda Feterl hosted her dance recital last week, and the Starlite Drive-in will soon open. Summer will be over before we know it.
By: Don Simmons, Submitted columnist
Spring has sprung in Mitchell. After one of the coldest winters in recent memory, things are starting to heat up. A robin may be the sign of spring in other parts of the country, but seeing more than one tourist family taking photos in front of the Corn Palace is a sure sign that May is almost here. Linda Feterl hosted her dance recital last week, and the Starlite Drive-in will soon open. Summer will be over before we know it.
After staying indoors for what seemed an eternity during January and February, warmed only by hot hoops in the Corn Palace and the heated debate in Washington over health-care reform, this political and sports junkie experienced the All-American evening earlier this week.
It all began with an invitation to attend the 2010 Davison-Hanson Lincoln Day Dinner. For those unfamiliar with it, a Lincoln Day dinner is the primary fundraising event for most county organizations within the Republican Party. The Democratic version is the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, or sometimes the McGovern Day dinner in our state. The draw for those in attendance is the opportunity to rub shoulders with candidates for national, state and local office. Such events are even more critical in states like South Dakota, where “retail politics” is a way of life and voters expect to be able to meet and speak with candidates before making their decision on Election Day.
I have attended perhaps hundreds of such dinners while working on political campaigns and covering them for the media, but few had the air of the one in Mitchell this week. There is something unique about South Dakota politicians. They have a sincerity and candor that is unlike elsewhere in the country. South Dakotans, themselves, are the ones responsible for this wonderful anomaly. They send anyone that they perceive as phony or too full of themselves packing in an election.
For someone who has attended such events in places like San Francisco and New York City, it was a refreshing reminder of what I love about South Dakota. At California political fundraisers they auction off things like movie voice-over scripts autographed by film stars, but in Mitchell you are given the opportunity to bid on apple pie, the ultimate American delicacy, made by the good women of Davison and Hanson counties.
Chevrolet made commercials about how they were as American as mom and apple pie and the smell of those assorted pies reminded me of what I love about being American. One thing all of us can agree on, Democrats, Republicans and independents, is that a good piece of pie is hard to beat. Unfortunately, like a good cook, a good political speech is rare these days. In a time when fast food and political sound bites have replaced the sit-down dinner and real discussions on the issues, this week’s Lincoln Day event was a good reminder that all is not lost.
After dinner, a couple of us went over to the ballpark to watch the second half of the DWU-Briar Cliff doubleheader. The guy I sat next to was eating a hot dog, and it sure smelled good, but at the time I couldn’t imagine eating another bite. Wesleyan’s ace pitcher and local sports star, Phil Johnson, helped close out the sweep for the Tigers. It was the perfect way to end an all-American evening.
As I sat there in Cadwell Park during the break before the final inning, I kept thinking about the politics of the evening. And as soon as the concession stand closed, I wanted that hot dog I had denied myself earlier.
In frustration, my thoughts returned to one pie in particular from the earlier auction. Apparently I wasn’t alone in my opinion of the culinary masterpiece, because the winning bid was close to $100. The guy who won it was a candidate for statewide office. Maybe I was the only one who saw the irony, but so much for all his talk about fiscal responsibility. But then again, like an evening of both good campaign speeches and great baseball, a piece of homemade apple pie can, in the moment, be priceless.
Don Simmons is a political commentator and director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. He has written occasional political pieces for The Daily Republic.