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Contrasting 9/11 events set in Mitchell today, Saturday

Two days, two events, two very different ways to commemorate 9/11.

A local luncheon will be hosted today to honor local firefighters and to remember the losses, pain and terror of Sept. 11, 2001.

On Saturday, a poker run and street dance is set to remember the day and promote patriotism through Americans enjoying their freedom to enjoy life.

Today's luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the James Valley Community Center, 300 W. First Ave. Mitchell firefighters, dressed in their uniforms, will attend and will sit at tables with seniors and other local residents.

Senior Services Director Brenda Paradis said the luncheon is part of a national effort to hold events at Retired Senior Volunteers Program sites.

"They want all the programs in the country to do something to remember that day," Paradis said.

Mitchell Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg, who was at ground zero after the terrorist attacks, will speak today.

The public is invited to attend, Paradis said. They should call 995-8440 by 9 a.m. today to reserve a lunch, or they can stop by and order a sandwich or something else from the deli.

"We're pretty excited," Paradis said. "We just want people to remember how lucky we are to live in this country."

On Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the attacks, a poker run and street dance are planned downtown.

The events will center around Signatures, 716 N. Rowley St. The poker run starts at noon, with registration opening at 11 a.m.

There's a $20 entry fee and riders will head to Tripp, Parkston, Ethan, Emery and Alexandria.

Laurriee Bentson, of Kaotic Entertainment, who organized the event with Jimmy Causey, a Signatures coowner, said firefighters will be outside of every bar along the run to be saluted by the poker run participants.

The event was approved by the Mitchell City Council this summer after discussion and some dissent by Councilman Mel Olson, who said he didn't feel a party-like atmosphere was appropriate as a way to commemorate such a solemn event.

Bentson said she disagrees.

"It's not about a disrespect, it's about a respect," she said.

Bentson said similar activities are planned in New York City and elsewhere across the country.

"I was disappointed," she said of the criticism. "I thought we were trying to promote a cause."

The poker run will end about 3 p.m., when the street dance starts.

Five bands -- Cruz 69, The Manhattan Buldge, There and Lost Again, Cross-Eyed Mary and The Onslaught -- will perform. There will be food and drinks available.

General admission is $10, and $5 for poker riders. Police, fire and military personnel will be admitted free with an ID, she said.

All proceeds will be split among The Victims Fund, the South Dakota Honor Flight and the James Valley Community Center. Commemorative bandannas will be sold, and that money will also be donated.

Bentson said that's a message that should have been shared this summer when the event was announced.

The street dance will end at midnight, but Cruz 69 will perform inside Signatures from midnight until 2 a.m.

Several local businesses have signed on as sponsors, and Bentson said this will be the first of many such events, all planned for the Saturday closest to Sept. 11.

"We've been talking with Mark Schilling (director of the Corn Palace), the Chamber and downtown Mitchell to make this bigger next year," she said. "We want to involve all of downtown."

The goal is to make it a ribfest with music, poker runs and fun while also honoring the patriotic reason for such an event, Bentson said.

"I believe we need to never forget," she said.