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Wagner sends out summer with Labor Day celebration

The Corn Palace Shrine Club and their Corn Palace Hillbillies cause a scene during Monday's Labor Day parade in Wagner. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)1 / 2
The farm-themed float of the Commericial State Bank in Wagner celebrates 125 years of South Dakota statehood as it rolls through the Labor Day parade Monday in Wagner. Thousands of area residents lined the sidewalks during the morning parade, which is the 114th parade in the community's history. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)2 / 2

WAGNER — For the 114th time, the community of Wagner gathered for a Labor Day parade. And judging by the thousands lining the sidewalks during the celebration, it's fair to consider it a success.

Dozens of floats trotted down the streets of Wagner in the 90-minute parade, as the annual holiday celebration capped a three-day festival with events ranging from auto racing to rodeos and bean bags to barbecuing.

Keith Schroeder and his wife, Mardell, were the grand marshals for the parade through town. At age 86, it was quite the honor for a self-proclaimed "old-timer" who has lived in Wagner for all but two years of his life.

"The parade is a big deal down here and you get a lot of people to come out and enjoy themselves," he said. "It was nice for them to let some old-timers like us carry that big honor."

Schroeder said when he was growing up, Labor Day was the occasion where the area's farming would come together and celebrate their summer work just completed and look forward to the harvest season.

"It has always been a big way of bringing people out and getting together," Schroeder said. "It's always just been the right time of year for that."

The event has always carried an added significance for the Schroeders because their children and grandchildren come back to the community and enjoy the rides set up along Main Street.

"We're getting up there in years, so we probably aren't spending as much time up there as we used to but it's still a great occasion and we go to the midway and watch our grandkids enjoy the rides," he said.

As many South Dakota towns have done this summer, Wagner incorporated South Dakota's 125th birthday celebration into its own annual get-together. Many of the floats carried a 125th anniversary theme, whether that was oversized, paper mache-like cakes or portraying scenes in South Dakota history.

The town also celebrated with a pair of rodeos on Saturday and Sunday night, followed by the season championships for the Wagner Speedway on Monday night. A road race, motorcycle ride, bean bag tournament, car show, fishing tournament and a concert were among the other events held in town over the three-day span from Saturday to Monday.

Patty Deurmier and Jody Kocer are the co-chairs for the town's wildly-popular Festival in the Park, which brings in more than 20 vendors with merchandise and food to combine with kids games and live music.

Deurmier said Wagner's Labor Day has appeal because many of the townspeople know each other and others from surrounding communities.

"Even if they've moved away and no longer live here, they'll make it a point to come back and see old friends," she said.

Kocer said the celebration also is the marker between summer and fall in the area.

"This is when it feels like the seasons change," she said.

It was also vividly clear that it is an election year, as a handful of statewide candidates were in town to shake hands and pass out stickers. State Attorney General Marty Jackley, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and Secretary of State candidate Shantel Krebs were among the Republican nominees walking in the parade. U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland and Governor candidate Susan Wismer represented the state's Democratic Party.

While not in Wagner, Gov. Dennis Daugaard also was out and about Monday campaigning. He was the grand marshal for Winner's Labor Day parade.