1998 was filled with notable events for Vermillion and Clay County

1998 was filled with notable events for Vermillion and Clay County The Vermillion Plain Talk continues its look at 1998, by taking note of some of the major news happenings in Vermillion and Clay County from May through December 1998.

The Vermillion Plain Talk won six journalism awards last week at the 1998 South Dakota Newspaper Association Convention in Spearfish.

In preparation for the bicentennial in 2004, the Lewis and Clark Trail in South Dakota has a new look. A series of interpretive panels has been installed at 12 locations along the Missouri River, each telling about the expeditions and experiences in present-day South Dakota � from their stop at Spirit Mound to their first meeting with Teton Sioux. Trail markers, featuring the figurines of Lewis and Clark, also have been installed at major intersections along the driving route.

The process may take more than two years, but officials at The University of South Dakota are taking the first steps needed to replace the DakotaDome roof.

Figures were presented to the Board of Regents during its May meeting in Brookings, with two options being considered. One is replacing the fabric covering with similar material at an estimated cost of $5.7 million. The other is a combination of stainless steel with a fabric center, with a price tag of about $11 million.

Thursday, May 14, USD President James W. Abbott named Kelly Higgins as USD's new director of athletics. The appointment of Higgins is pending approval of the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Corporal Mike Joffer of the Vermillion police force biked and ran 70 miles of the torch run across the state before handing the torch to Michael Kolbeck at the DakotaDome in Vermillion Thursday afternoon. Michael solemnly received it as teammates and law enforcement officers who participated in the run watched.

Then Michael raised the torch high and the audience joined Special Olympians in cheering as he marched to the podium to light the flame in opening ceremonies of the state summer games.

Just before leaving Washington for the Memorial Day recess, Congress passed a $203 billion highway bill which includes $3 million as the final funding for the Vermillion bridge and a new bridge at Yankton.

Jill and Jim Reindl could do nothing more than embrace each other tightly Tuesday morning.

Firemen from Beresford and Vermillion couldn't save the Reindls' house, known to many in the area simply as "the house on the hill."

The structure had prominently overlooked Interstate 29 just west of Union County State Park for the past 18 years.

Authorities continue to investigate the death of a rural Beresford man found June 4 in his home near Union County State Park. The death has been ruled a homicide according to a statement issued by the Union County State's Attorney's office and Sheriff's Office.

"Free Family Fun" is the theme of this year's arts festival, which will be held at the Old Main Quadrangular on the campus of The University of South Dakota, June 20 – 21.

The State of South Dakota has agreed to pay 100 percent of the construction costs for one of the connecting roads to the Missouri River bridge from Vermillion to Nebraska.

The dedicated business route, 1.2 miles in length, will connect the new bridge road to the airport road which turns into Dakota Street. Its construction was just one topic covered during a meeting in Pierre June 19 with representatives from Vermillion and the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

A Wakonda fireman was arrested Monday for, ironically, allegedly trying to burn down the rectory of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Wakonda April 25. The arrest of George A. Davis, 30, also known as Al Davis, came about after Davis was indicted May 27 by a Clay County grand jury.

By only a one vote margin, the Vermillion City Council approved the acceptance of bids for the construction of new soccer fields and a softball field four-plex on The University of South Dakota campus.

When completed, the two fields will be used jointly by the university and the city.

The Clay County Veterans Memorial Committee is raising funds to erect the Clay County Veterans Memorial which indeed will help patriotism as it pays tribute to the men and women who have served America in war and peace.

Designed by architect Sandy Dickenson, the memorial will be located on the southeast corner of the Clay County Courthouse. It will feature the three monuments donated to the city in 1995 by the late Kenneth Mockler, the American flag, service flags for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and the veterans monument from Prentis Park. Benches and planters will surround the patio area which can be accessed at the corner of Main and High streets, or the north courthouse parking lot.

From Vermillion High School to the Clay County Courthouse, the glow of anticipation radiated much like Saturday's heat as crowds lined the streets waiting for Mickey's Hometown Parade.

It has been estimated that 25,000 to 42,000 people came July 18 to witness the event, which Disney brought to Vermillion as the result of a contest won by resident Karen Lee.

The Wakonda School Board, after reviewing the 1998-99 budget proposal, at their July 15, 1998 meeting school budget hearing, decided to opt-out of the tax freeze limitations.


Thirty-five South Dakota hospitals, including the one in Vermillion, agreed to pay more than $1.7 million to the federal government to settle disputes over billing for blood tests.

One of the hospitals that was to make a payment was the Sioux Valley Vermillion Campus. Its total payment was $19,948.40.

The dispute was over improper billing claims to Medicare and Champus, which is military health insurance, U.S. Attorney Karen Schreier said. The years in question are 1991 to 1996.

Weather allowed construction workers to continue construction on the new 5,600 square foot addition to Austin Elementary School. The construction added four classrooms and a set of bathrooms at a cost of $772,370. The project included a new roof for the school and new carpeting. The addition was needed to meet the demands of a growing school population. Enrollment figures for next year's second-grade class are projected at about 110, compared to 81 at the beginning of this year.

Where could you find out the background of political candidates, search your family tree, learn about a variety of health care issues, buy an American flag and shop for the latest in designer clothes and accessories?

The Clay County Fair, that's where. Sure, the fair featured some traditional events: the

4-H Achievement Days and Open Class shows, for example. But the event, held Aug. 6 � 8, was also a magnet that attracted curious onlookers and various businesses hoping to cash in on visitors whose burning curiosity about their products or services compelled them to spend some money.

It all started in Nevada "where we were wine making hobbyists," Sherry Nygaard said. "But we decided to move back to South Dakota to dosomething different."

It started out as a hobby, but wine making is now a true business for Al and Sherry Nygaard, owners of Valiant Vineyards Winery in Vermillion.

1997 was the first year that Valiant Vineyards made and sold its own wine.

"It takes a year to make wine and the recipes are developed from our tastes and trial and error," Sherry said. "We had 500 gallons last year and will have 2,000 this year."

Nine varieties will be bottled by Valiant Vineyards.

Michelle Merrigan, Vermillion, was pictured with Mario Almanza and Juanita Garcia, whose home she helped build as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity earlier this summer. She was among approximately 6,000 volunteers who put up 100 homes in Houston, TX, in June.

Michelle, daughter of Nick and Mary Merrigan and a 1997 graduate of Vermillion High School, now attends the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, as a pre-med psychology major. It was through college that she became involved in the Habitat program.

The University of South Dakota has been tabbed as one of the 228 best universities in the nation according to rankings released by U.S. News and World Report magazine. In its annual college guide, "America's Best Colleges," USD was ranked in the fourth tier of the National University category.

USD is the only South Dakota college or university ranked in the magazine's National University category and has been included in the U.S. News and World Report college guide for eight consecutive years (since 1990). Other area colleges and universities are listed in the U.S. News and World Report's ranking but were listed in the regional universities and regional liberal arts college categories.

Olympia Fitness of Vermillion, Inc. purchased Spa Time for Women, Coyote Health Club for Men and Women and PACE, an aerobic circuit training program. The corporation is made up of Kevin Campisi, Meckling; and Cody Richardson and Chuck Light of Yankton.

The businesses, begun by Gwen Nelson in 1985 with Spa Time for Women, progressed as she made additions in 1990 and 1994.

"Kevin came into my office a week ago and said 'I want to buy this business.' I think that he and the others involved in the corporation will be excellent, excellent owners," Nelson said. "They're going to take my business and make it even better."

"There are few sights as beautiful or as inspiring as witnessing a bullfighter of the rodeo arena move into a twisting, raging, catastrophe in the making, move a bull away from a rider who is down, do this at incredibly close quarters, and to make it look easy to boot!"

Cowboy preacher and poet Ed Nesselhuf of Vermillion wrote these words as a prelude to his poem, Dances With Bulls.

The crowd that turned out at the fairgrounds for Bull-A-Rama '98 soon discovered that Nesselhuf knows what he's talking about.


The Lewis and Clark Discovery expedition of St. Charles, MO, is retracing 725 miles of the Lewis and Clark return trip down the Missouri River. The crew dressed in period clothing. The group departed by road from Missouri on Aug. 27, towing their boats. On Sept. 1, they climbed Spirit Mound near Vermillion and paid their respects to the site by raising the flag.

D.A.R.E. is 10 years old in Vermillion. As, the 1998-99 school year started, Vermillion's fifth-graders probably didn't realize that the D.A.R.E. classes they would be taking this semester began in town the year most of them were born.

Initiated in the Vermillion School District in 1988, the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) helps students recognize and resist the many direct and subtle pressures that may influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants and other drugs.

One of the key elements of D.A.R.E. is enhancing self-esteem and giving kids the ability to deal with stress.

The Vermillion Chamber of Commerce fund raiser, Autumn Fest '98, held Sept. 20 to raise money for the purchase of new holiday street banners, was a great success, according to Chamber Manager Bonnie Sorensen. Of the $2,167 raised, $1,370 came from the silent auction held in conjunction with the ham dinner. Silent auction items and services were donated by area merchants.

Howard Wilson, Carol Bymers, Byron Bymers, Bonnie Sorensen, Diane Reinke and Mayor Bill Radigan were pictured in front of the two choices for the banners. For a $1 donation, everyone could vote on their favorite. The outcome was a tie, so both designs will be purchased. In all, $20,000 had to be raised for the new holiday banners and lights.

Wilbur Foss of Scotland, who founded the Old-time Fiddler's Contest in 1973, said people were pleased with the event's new home this year.

"We were very pleased, and I think the event, if it continues in Vermillion, will give added exposure to the Shrine to Music Museum," Foss said.

He's grateful that the Shrine to Music Museum stepped in this year and offered to help host the jamboree. It allowed approximately 40 musicians from all over the country to not only compete musically, but also to renew some old friendships that have been inspired by the jamboree's 25-year history.

The Prentis Park water tower, built in 1959, was temporarily out of commission while being repainted inside and out.

The project included complete sandblasting and painting. It was last painted in 1975. Touch-up work along with periodic inspections over the years show there is nothing wrong with the tower, "but it's time to do the whole thing, now," said Harold Holoch, utilities engineer for the city of Vermillion.

Vermillion's downtown mural, "Missouri Weave," is getting a fresh, new look in time for Dakota Days this year, with the help of its original designer Dick Termes, the Vermillion Area Arts Council and scores of volunteers, like Rick Jones and Justus Meyer. Located on the west wall of the building at Center and Main Streets, "Missouri Weave" depicts the architectural landmarks of Vermillion, "woven" together with strands of blues representing the Missouri and Vermillion rivers. The river breaks and surrounding farmlands are also woven into the work. The mural's restoration included the incorporation of impressionistic style and more color, "which will make it more fun to look at," said Termes, who also added hidden imagery � just for fun. The makeover also included the addition of Lewis and Clark's visit to the area within the mural. Termes was happy to come back to Vermillion to work on the mural and appreciated the help from students and adults. "There's a nice group of folks here," he said.

An endowed scholarship has been established in honor of The University of South Dakota 1958 Mens National Championship Basketball Team.

The scholarship was announced during the 40-year reunion of the team, held during USD's Dakota Days homecoming on Sept. 25.


Members of The University of South Dakota Department of Military Science's Prairie Fire Battalion resurrected a nearly forgotten tradition. According to Captain Stacey Barr, an assistant professor of Military Science, the Prairie Fire Battalion coordinated Operation Coyote Cleanup on Sept. 23 in which students cleared the white USD letters area located on the Vermillion Bluffs. Members of the Battalion and students from across the campus cooperated on this cleanup project. The Military Science Department received support from USD Facilities Management, as well as The Bluffs Golf Course. In addition, area businesses joined the effort, including Hy-Vee, Jones' Food Center, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Subway and KVHT Radio. Now that the work is complete, the letters, which pre-date World War II, look almost as good as new.

The Vermillion Public Library Foundation, Inc. hosted an autographed book auction at the W.H. Over Museum on Nov. 14. Proceeds from the auction went to aid the foundation in meeting its pledge to fund the $20,000 renovation for the children's story and activity room in the Vermillion Public Library, scheduled to be completed by Oct. 16.

The children's story and activity room construction, together with the other renovations approved and funded by the library board are the first major improvements in the library since its construction in 1978. However, without the support of the Vermillion Public Library Foundation, Inc. the children's area would have been placed on a "to-do-later" list.

Students at Austin and Jolley Schools had a special guest as the Character Counts program was kicked off Oct. 1 and 2. "Elvis" (who is actually fourth-grade teacher Lance Luitjens) sang to the kids before and after they watched skits defining the six points of Character Counts: Responsibility, Caring, Respect, Fairness, Trustworthiness and Citizenship. Each point will become a theme for the coming months of the school year through April.

Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine reminds voters that the general election ballot will not have a straight-party voting option. Voters will need to vote on each race individually.

Hazeltine said she realizes some South Dakota voters will be surprised that the option of straight party balloting is not available, but she hopes it will encourage voters to study the candidates and the issues they represent.

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, presented a copy of Congressional legislation calling for the secretary of interior to authorize the purchase of Spirit Mound to District 17 Sen. Joe Reedy, and Larry Monfore and Amond Hanson, members of the board of the Lewis and Clark -Spirit Mound Trust, Inc. of Vermillion. The presentation was made, appropriately at the top of Spirit Mound.


What a difference an election day can make on the local political landscape.

A year ago, District 17 voters sent two Democrats to the House of Representatives in Pierre to finish out their terms.

Those incumbents — Gary Sokolow and Caitlin Collier, both of Vermillion � decided earlier this year that they would not seek re-election.

Election '98 results sent the following people to bat for South Dakota. Gov. Bill Janklow (R), Sec. of State Joyce Hazeltine (R), Att. Gen. Mark Barnett (R), State Aud. Vern Larson, (R), State Treas. Dick Butler (D), Comm. of School and Public Lands Curt Johnson (D), Public Utilities Comm. Jim Burg (D), State Senator for Dist. 17 John J. Reedy (D), State Reps. for District 17 Judy Clark (R) and H. Junior Engbrecht (R), Clay Co. Comm. Gary Iverson (D) and Gerald Sommervold (R), U.S. Senator Tom Daschle (D), U.S. Representative John Thune (R).

A winter storm socked Clay County with wind and snow. Motorists had to negotiate Vermillion's Main Street with care Wednesday, Nov. 11 after a winter storm dumped perhaps as much as nine inches of snow in the region. The storm began early Tuesday morning, but didn't start to subside until Tuesday night, giving city street crews a chance to break out their snow moving equipment. City crews cleared two driving lanes on Main Street by pushing the snow into a large ridge down the street's center.

Three substations lost power because of the storm. Between 800 and 1,000 customers lost their electricity.

Yankton had reports of gusts of 53 miles per hour that didn't stop dropping until about midnight.

The weather was so severe Tuesday, Nov. 9, that the Vermillion Police Department announced that anyone found driving on city streets would be stopped and arrested.

Residents of the Vermillion area had the opportunity to meet renowned artist James Meger Sunday, Nov. 22.

Meger, who was recently voted into the U.S. Art's Hall of Fame by galleries across the nation, was a guest artist at the Tigert Art Gallery in Vermillion.

New Christmas decorations have been purchased this year for the city's street light poles with donations from area organizations and individuals.

A $10,000 Christmas gift to the city of Vermillion from an anonymous donor helped buy new wreaths and garlands for the street lights.

Alcohol violations at a fraternity house and downtown bar last weekend resulted in several arrests and citations, according to the Vermillion Police Department.

Fifty-four citations were issued early Friday morning (Nov. 27) for underage consumption at the Sigma Nu house, 221 East Main, following an undercover investigation that began Thursday night.

Santa was at Community First State Bank from 12 noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 22, hearing the holiday wishes of local children. While adults were visiting Vermillion merchants during Sunday's Home for the Holidays celebration, young people also could take in a free movie, Home Alone 3, at the Coyote Theatre located on Main Street. Other events of the day included an open house at the Austin Whittemore House, a dance demonstration at the Vermillion Dance Studio, and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Members of the Vermillion Fire Department traded their reflective, protective firefighting clothing for coveralls, and their axes for hammers Tuesday, Nov. 17 as they descended on the Wanda and Tim Hannahs home in Vermillion.

They, along with many other volunteers from Vermillion and surrounding communities, are performing what can most accurately be termed as a mission of love as they work at a feverish pace to build a 990 square foot addition to the Hannahs' home.

Wanda Hannahs remains a patient at Sioux Valley Hospital following a Sept. 11 traffic accident that nearly claimed her life.


Two Vermillion residents recently made it to the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce's Top Ten List.

Roxanne Johnson, a student at The University of South Dakota Law School, and Dr. Scott Rand, a family practice physician at Sioux Valley Vermillion Clinic, were honored at the 1998 Ten Outstanding South Dakotans Banquet, sponsored by the South Dakota Jaycees and Gateway.

John Austin, a key contributor on the last University of South Dakota conference championship team (1978) and a top assistant to retiring Hayden Fry at the University of Iowa, has been named the new head football coach at The University of South Dakota.

Vermillion has changed a great deal since Shawn Colvin's family moved away from here when she was 12 years old.

When the Grammy Award winning vocalist stepped on the stage of Slagle Auditorium Saturday night, however, she knew by the warm response of the large auditorium that she had returned home.

Thousands of students in 50 states and 12 countries competed Dec. 2 in the 31st Knowledge Master Open Academic competition. Students faced their competitors and 200 tough questions to vie for top scores based on accuracy and the speed of their answers. A team of 19 students at Vermillion High School received 1,412 of a possible 2,000 points to score first in South Dakota and 183rd contest wide. Academic Coach Mary Lea Hennies was particularly impressed with the dedication of the students who came in after school to practice and the organizational skills students used to analyze the questions. Students included on the team were Jon Rusch, Greg Rinehart, Mike Paulson, Zeb Lang, James Clark, Corey Novak, Wes Christensen, David Jensen, Todd Stephens, Mark Rusch, Jon Hoadley, Melissa Gale, Landon Morse, John Ring, Seth Nesselhuf, Lyz Baranowski, Chris Hays and Vani Ramakrishnan.

Ringing in the new year is a tradition, but Vermillion residents had the opportunity to participate in a new kind of celebration Dec. 31 at the Coyote Student Center on The University of South Dakota campus.

"Celebrate Vermillion" ran from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and featured fun for all ages.

The planning committee had been working together in Vermillion since September to formulate the event to include a children's carnival with face painting, balloon animals, a fish pond, board games, bridge playing, bingo, miniature golf, karaoke, music and dancing with Randy Hammer, a giant Twister game, a prize-filled balloon drop at about 11 p.m., movies and story telling for children and cookie decorating. Snacks and beverages were also available.

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