COVID-19 mars Kernel Bowl's first full slate of games

Mitchell players and fans watch a fireworks display following a game against Watertown on Aug. 24, 2018 at Joe Quintal Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

It took Mitchell High School five years to get most of its teams home games on the day of the Kernel Bowl, only for COVID-19 to put a damper on it.

Mitchell has managed various combinations of sports to accompany the football team -- which has served as the nightcap of the Kernel Bowl through its entirety -- but never the majority of this year, as the boys and girls soccer, volleyball and football teams are all in action on Saturday.

The day begins with the Kernel Bowl 5K at 8 a.m. on the track at Joe Quintal Field, followed by the girls soccer team hosting Harrisburg at 11 a.m. and the boys soccer team facing Harrisburg at 1 p.m. Action moves over to the MHS gymnasium as the volleyball team battles Huron at 3 p.m. and finally the football team faces Spearfish at 6 p.m.

“We finally got the schedule set where we could have everyone here to have one big day, which was the ultimate goal and now we aren’t able to do it the way it intended to be,” MHS activities director Cory Aadland said. “That’s probably the most disappointing part. Instead of everyone gathered here for the day watching games, we’re unfortunately having to run it like individual games. It doesn’t have the same appeal as what the original vision was.”

One of the big challenges in getting each time to play at home was scheduling, so that led to moving the Kernel Bowl from Labor Day weekend to the third week of the football season.


The Mitchell cross country team has held an invitational in previous years, but were unable to do so this season. The Kernel volleyball team has also usually played in an invitational at Huron on Labor Day weekend, so moving the event back a week, allowed for easier scheduling.

“Getting everyone home on the same day sounds a lot easier than it is,” Aadland said. “In past years, we had a number of recurring dates that were set in our schedule during the first two weeks of football season. … Part of the decision to move it to the second home (football) game was to get away from set dates, as well as to get away from Labor Day and Corn Palace Festival conflicts.”

The Kernel Bowl typically serves as one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Mitchell Athletic Booster Club, but gone is the annual tailgate leading up the football game. Meanwhile, attendance will remain limited to distributed vouchers for a weekend that usually brings some of the highest attendance numbers of the fall sports season.

Aadland said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was discussion of making all-day passes available for purchase for fans that desired to attend all four games, but the idea was dispatched for safety precautions.

Kernel Bowl staples such as the massive American flag hanging from a fire truck and post-game fireworks will continue, allowing it to resemble a form of normalcy.

“We’re trying to find things to do to make it as big of a deal as we can make it,” Aadland said. “We’ll still have player of the game awards to give out for both soccer games, the volleyball match and football. … We’re still doing those things to make it different than a typical Saturday.”

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