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Important election looms for area, city of Mitchell

A key election is coming up soon, but it won't be on the November ballot. Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee members will cast their votes in October for the new chairman of that organization. You may think I'm exaggerating, but this election i...

A key election is coming up soon, but it won't be on the November ballot.

Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee members will cast their votes in October for the new chairman of that organization.

You may think I'm exaggerating, but this election is as important to Mitchell as a City Council race, perhaps more so.

From an economic standpoint, the impact from out-of-state visitors alone has been estimated at more than $400,000 just for Mitchell. And from a purely entertainment perspective, it rivals the Corn Palace Festival.

That's why, when current chairman Lance Carson steps down in October, someone must step up, and just following Carson and those who preceded him would be intimidating.

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Carson has led the committee since 1994. Before him there was Jim Myers, 1986-1993; Ray Henderson, 1973-1985; and Larry Scheele, 1971-1972, the first chairman for the first official Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo held in 1971. I didn't have the opportunity to know Scheele or Henderson, but those who did speak highly of them. Scheele's role was critical because it was under his watch that the rodeo was launched. Henderson was a near legendary figure in local circles, and a history of the rodeo says that anyone who met him liked him. He was awarded the PRCA Gold Card for his 20-plus years of service to a rodeo committee. Myers, for many years a local banker, also was awarded the Gold Card and in 1993 was nominated for the John Justin Standard of the West award.

Carson brought his own style of leadership -- a blend of creativity, fresh ideas and no-nonsense management.

Under Carson -- a 1996 Stampede Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee -- the rodeo expanded from three to four days, primarily because of overcrowding, a testimony to the success of the event and the evolution of ideas that continue to make it better. With Carson stepping back, the question now is who will take over one of this city's most successful and high-profile events?

A number of names have surfaced. Among them: Dave Sietsema, who is vice-chairman and who has worked closely with Carson in recent years, coming on the committee in 1997. A South Dakota State University graduate, Sietsema has his own studio photography business.

"If the committee would have that kind of faith in me, it would be humbling, and then I would be interested in undertaking that responsibility," Sietsema said. Then he added a thought that all would-be chairmen must at least think about: "The time commitment is incredible. It makes us all hedge a little. And then the legacy. Ray Henderson, Jim Myers, Lance Carson - those are big boots to fill."

Jim Miskimins also is high on the list. He's been on the committee since 1990 and is a partner at the Taylor and Miskimins law firm. Other names include Jerry Luckett, Wade Greenwood, Jimmie Nicolaus and Audrey Stahl, chairman of the Bull Bash.

Miskimins said he wants to see who other committee people are talking about for the post but admits, "I can't say that I'd say no to a majority of the committee."

Luckett, currently secretary, said "it would be an honor to be nominated and to be placed in the same category as the previous chairmen," but added that she also would be happy to continue as secretary, a post she has held for 18 years.

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Regardless of who is named, the job is a big one. Just because rodeos are popular doesn't mean all are successful. Like any event, they must change to meet a changing market or they will wither.

We've seen that with some events in Mitchell, but the Stampede Rodeo has gone the other way, in large part because it keeps changing. This year's "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" is a prime example. It was novel, risky and hugely successful to the surprise of many.

Coming up with new and attractive themes is only one part of the challenge, though. The rodeo committee has continued to make physical improvements at the rodeo grounds and succeeded this week in obtaining city funds for new aluminum bleachers.

The committee will make a good choice, and there is, without a doubt, more than one person on the committee who could do the job.

Meanwhile, I'd like to tip my old straw hat to the entire committee for what it does for our town:

Lance Carson, Kathy Fraser, Jerry Luckett, Dave Sietsema, Jim Myers, Butch Odegaard, Wade Greenwood, Trevor Dierks, Tim Wiebelhaus, Jimmie Nicolaus, Laura Docken, Jim Miskimins, Stan Peterson, Audrey Stahl, Rick Wagner, Don Curtis, Penny Tilton, Dave Emmert, Allen Stekl and Matt Zens.

nhamiel@mitchellrepublic.com

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