2017 stories of the year
Times change, but the talk of the town stayed the same.
In 2016, we named the progress to restore water quality at Lake Mitchell as The Daily Republic's story of the year, and we were optimistic the city was on track to solve the decades-old algae issues on the lake.
Then came 2017. Rather than describing the algae bloom that struck Lake Mitchell ourselves, this is how Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee member Mark Puetz described it.
"It's been thick and blue and iridescent and nasty and everything you can think," Puetz said in June. "You can practically walk across it."
And if you were unlucky enough to approach the lake during a large bloom, your nose would have been overcome with a rancid odor that's difficult to describe.
Almost everywhere we went this year, Lake Mitchell consistently seemed to be a topic of conversation. The odor and the images of the lake sparked discussions throughout town, bringing even more people into the fold to help find solutions.
Two new committees spent time working on educating the public about the issues at the lake, including an all-day information session at Camp Arroya in July. And while the water quality issues at the lake were undeniable, it was encouraging to see substantial city-wide interest in finding a solution.
Here's how Lake Mitchell Technical Advisory Team member Mike Blaalid described the education process in July.
"We're doing more now than ever, and I think it's going to help keep the momentum going," Blaalid said.
That momentum has persisted, as the year culminated with the city of Mitchell receiving a preliminary draft of a report that could be used to address water quality issues in the lake.
Time will tell if those solutions are implemented, or if they work, but it's tough to make a case that Lake Mitchell's water quality wasn't the top story of the year in The Daily Republic's coverage area.
The following are the other top 10 region and local stories as determined by The Daily Republic.
2) The drought of 2017
If you spoke to a farmer this summer, you certainly know it was a tough year in the ag industry.
Agriculture product suppliers reported a drop in business, and famers expected the worst from their yields — all because of one devastating weather event.
A drought rocked the state for much of the growing season, and commodity prices didn't rise enough to overcome the anticipated drop in yields. Fortunately, weather turned around a bit, leaving some growers pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't quite as kind as it could have been.
3) Non-meandered waters steal the spotlight
We're not sure how many South Dakotans knew the term "non-meandered waters" last year, but we'd bet it's a low percentage.
Now, many people are familiar with the term, and that's likely because a decision involving non-meandered waters kept them away from their favorite fishing spot during the spring.
An S.D. Supreme Court ruling in March determined the state Legislature needed to rule on whether water that has drifted over private property over time could be accessed via the public. It forced a state agency to close nearly 30 bodies of water for a spell.
The decision was ultimately resolved by the state Legislature and the lakes and ponds were re-opened, but it was quite the headache for a few months.
4) Proud year for the Corn Palace
A lot of good news came from The World's Only Corn Palace in 2017.
Not only was new plaza opened just south of the city's major tourist attraction — which looks beautiful with holiday decorations on display — but the Corn Palace Festival also turned a nice profit and the 2-year-old corn murals were finally replaced.
We're proud of the city's ability to improve the Corn Palace, and those achievements earned it a spot on our top 10 list.
5) PAC opens to much fanfare
While construction projects were speckled throughout Mitchell this year, one major project was completed.
The Mitchell School District Performing Arts Center opened in early 2017, providing Mitchell with its latest architectural wonder that will likely attract fine arts fanatics to town for years to come.
The future of performing arts in Mitchell is now brighter, and we recommend those who haven't visited the new space stop by and check in out.
6) Local sports legends close out careers
Two South Dakota sports heroes played what could be their last professional games in 2017. And both of those sports stars are from right here in our backyard.
First was Mount Vernon's Chad Greenway, a star linebacker for years with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Greenway capped off 11 seasons in January, and while we're sad to see him go, it was fun to celebrate his career.
The same goes for Mitchell native and 17-year NBA veteran Mike Miller, who last played in April.
We'd love to see Miller get one last crack shot in the NBA, but with two NBA Finals championships under his belt, no one can say he wasn't a success.
7) Retail wreck
JCPenney, rue21 and Sweet Fix Candy & Pop Shop had one thing in common this year: they all closed their doors in Mitchell.
The trio of retail establishments ended their run in 2017, adding Mitchell to the lengthy list of cities throughout the nation to see the physical retail locations slowly driven out of town.
Each of these stores increased Mitchell's quality of life by adding more shopping centers, adding to the sales tax base, and most importantly, providing jobs to area residents.
We're sad to see them go, but we understand it's part of a national trend and does not speak to Mitchell's viability as a retail market.
8) Pheasant fallout
As predicted due to harsh weather conditions, the pheasant count was down on opening weekend in South Dakota, and it certainly had an impact on the local economy.
In the southeast and south central parts of the state, the average birds per hunter was down, and the northeast region saw a count of only 0.5 birds per hunter in October's opening weekend.
We're sure the low pheasant numbers played a role in keeping outdoor tourists out of town this fall, and we're hoping for a bounceback year in 2018.
9) Muth's million
Muth Electric has had a major impact on Mitchell in more than one way, and Dick and Darlene Muth continued the company's legacy with a massive gift in December.
With a combination of endowed funds, past donations and in-kind contributions, the Muths and Muth Electric gifted $1.1 million to Mitchell Technical Institute, which will be used to benefit Muth's alma mater.
People like the Muths are who make strong cities thrive, and we're lucky to have them in Mitchell. Be sure to thanks the Muths next time you get a chance.
10) A pair of firefighter funerals
October was a difficult month for South Dakota firefighters.
Two firefighters from the area, Presho's Donald "Donny" Manger and Salem and Spencer's Tracy Morehead, died in separate incidents approximately one week apart.
While their deaths were tragic — Manger on the line of duty and Morehead in what appeared to be an unavoidable Interstate 90 crash — it was encouraging to see a massive show of support from their fellow South Dakotans after their passing.
Manger and Morehead were heroes, and South Dakota gave them a hero's farewell.