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Dakotafest could set records

Jacob Kirchner, of Dundee, Minn., rolls a set of combine tires with help from his brother, Phillip Kirchner, into their vendor exhibit Monday afternoon at the Schlaffman Farm near Mitchell for Dakotafest, which runs today through Thursday. The brothers run Kirchner Wheel in Dundee. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 2
Martin Ellingson, of Lake Preston, talks with Sarina Young, of Mitchell, while Young's father Randy Young and sister Merri Royce help erect Ellingson's tent Monday afternoon at the Schlaffman Farm near Mitchell for Dakotafest, which starts today. Ellingson, with his wife Mary Ann, runs the Fellowship of Christian Farmers International in South Dakota, based in Brookings. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

A new owner, better weather and an even bigger farm show.

That's how show director Ray Bianchi summed up the 18th edition of Dakotafest, which runs today through Thursday at the Schlaffman Farm just southeast Mitchell. Bianchi said the show has signed 685 vendors this year -- up from 585 last year.

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"I'm excited. We're anticipating the largest Dakotafest we've ever had. We're sold out and our projections are at 109 percent of budget."

Dakotafest will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. Gate admission is $10. Children 18 and younger are admitted free, and parking is free.

For those who have not attended past shows, Dakotafest is organized like a small town, complete with a mapped street grid. Bianchi said the farm show added three new streets this year to meet the demands of vendors clamoring for display space.

That's a good start for the show's operation under the ownership of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which acquired Dakotafest and other farm shows this month in a deal with Cygnus Business Media, the former owner.

As an added bonus, farmers and ranchers have had much more moisture this year following last summer's drought.

"I'm thrilled," said Bianchi, whose new title will be senior director of expos and events under the new ownership. He and his management team will remain in place as part of the deal, he said.

"The ownership change will be great for Dakotafest. The sale was like being acquired by the Cadillac of organizations. The Farm Bureau is the largest agricultural advocacy and lobbying group in the world."

The Farm Bureau is committed to growing, building and possibly adding more shows, he said.

Dakotafest will equal Farmfest in size this year, "and it's real close to being one of the largest ag shows in the United States," Bianchi said. Farmfest, in Redwood County, Minn., has been his group's largest show, he said.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Farm Bureau Federation is agriculture's largest nonprofit trade organization, with offices in nearly all U.S. counties. The South Dakota Farm Bureau has 13,000 members.

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman will be an opening day keynote speaker at this year's Dakotafest, with a 10 a.m. talk today in the South Dakota State University Pavilion tent.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Corn Growers will sponsor Arlan Suderman, senior market analyst for the Peoria, Ill.-based Water Street Solutions. His speech, "A Turning Point for U.S. Agriculture," will focus on the futures market.

Suderman, a marketing specialist, is heard daily on radio stations across the Midwest and shares market commentary on Twitter and Water Street's website and Facebook page. He has long-term experience in agricultural education, crop production, marketing and risk management.

Wednesday events also include a 2 p.m. town hall meeting, featuring U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who will discuss and answer questions about legislative work toward a new farm bill.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday is a free sweet corn feed sponsored by the Corn Utilization Council.

Families may also enjoy free noon ice cream socials on both Tuesday and Wednesday at the South Dakota State University tent. The event features premium ice cream produced at the university dairy.