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OUR VIEW: Don’t jettison Jett from SD parade float

Sometimes, we marvel at the things people decide to get mad about.

This week, we’re marveling at the uproar over rock star Joan Jett’s upcoming appearance on the South Dakota Office of Tourism’s float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Having a rock star on the float is nothing new. Neil Diamond and Don McLean have appeared on South Dakota’s floats in the past.

What’s new is Jett’s status as a vegetarian and her connection to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Some in South Dakota are upset that she’s been chosen to represent the state, because they believe her views are an affront to the beef industry that is such a vital part of South Dakota’s economy and heritage.

Like a lot of people in South Dakota, we’re pro-beef. We eat beef, and we have seen to it that this newspaper’s Food page regularly includes beef recipes. Mitchell is Beef Country, and we’re proud to say so.

But Jett’s appearance on a tourism-themed float has nothing to do with beef. It’s simply an effort to draw eyeballs to the float and spark interest in South Dakota’s tourism destinations. For that role, Jett and just about any other well-known musician is perfectly suited.

We doubt Jett will do or say anything during her time on the float to jeopardize the check she’s due to receive or the publicity boost the appearance will provide her music career. (She’ll be paid $5,000 as part of the state’s overall contract with Macy’s, which is about $175,000.) If she does somehow incorporate her anti-beef views into her duties on behalf of South Dakota, the state should cut ties with her immediately. Heck, stop the float and tell her to get lost. But if she simply stands on the float smiling, waving and singing (or lip-syncing, if that’s what’s done at such events), there’s nothing for anyone to worry about.

And, actually, having Jett on the float sends precisely the right message to potential visitors. It says South Dakota’s tourism industry welcomes any and all comers, including those who may disagree with the state’s prevailing attitudes and beliefs. The money of vegetarians and animal-rights activists, after all, is just as green as any other tourist.

Furthermore, if we’re going to subject all rock stars to a political or moral test before allowing them to grace our Thanksgiving float, we doubt anybody will ever pass.

People in Mitchell may remember that Jett played the Corn Palace Festival in 2009, and nobody raised a stink about it. The festival board needed an entertainer, and she needed a gig. If either side had problems with the other’s personal beliefs and lifestyle, they apparently set those problems aside in favor of a mutually beneficial business relationship.

That’s what reasonable people do, and being reasonable is just as South Dakotan as eating beef.