Editorial by the Plain Talk ver* mil* ion also ver* mill* ion n 1.a brilliant red pigment ?

This is a portion of the definition of the word vermilion, or more appropriately for this commentary, vermillion, in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

Please be patient with us. This will all make sense soon.

We pretty much share the same lot here in South Dakota. Collectively, as a state, we enjoy many of the same fortunes and suffer many of the same hardships.

The crops are plentiful during a good year. But not every year is good.

Retail activity is brisk during a good year. But there are times when the economy is in a slump.

Our places of natural beauty � the Missouri River, the Badlands, the Black Hills � receive plenty of visitors when people are content financially. When terrorism makes traveling difficult, when fuel prices rise and the future seems uncertain, people cancel their travel plans. Tourism suffers.

There are some communities in South Dakota that have proven that you can buck the odds. When times are maybe not so good, you can make them better.

And when times are good, you can make them superb.

These are communities that, through a lot of organization and hard work, year after year, have put themselves on the map.

How? They recognize the importance of unique, "signature" events. From Corn Palace Week to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, these activities virtually have grown to have a life of their own.

We were reminded of such a signature event recently when we received a press release announcing the schedule for the 2004 Schmeckfest.

Freeman will hold this annual event � its 46th next year � April 1, 2, and 3 on the campus of Freeman Academy.

Its beginnings 46 years ago were rather humble. Schmeckfest � a "tasting festival" � started in 1959 as a one-time event by the Freeman Academy and Junior College Women's Auxiliary to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

It proved to be so popular that it quickly became an annual affair. Held in late March or early April each year, this three-day festival brings hundreds of guests to the community from near and far.

In fact, a full three-course meal featuring the traditional foods of the Freeman community is served family style to 1,000 guests each night.

There's more than food to look forward to. The planners of the festival also provide high quality entertainment, usually in the form of a popular musical or play.

As can easily be imagined, it takes an incredible amount of work for Freeman, a community of approximately 1,500 people, to present Schmeckfest year after year after year.

But for nearly half a century now � during both good and not-so-good years � that lively community's citizens' work has paid off.

Freeman has made the so-so times often experienced by all South Dakota towns better. And it has made the good times superb.

We had a first-of-its kind event here in Vermillion recently that could easily be termed a Schmeckfest-like experience.

Approximately 300 women from 12 states gathered at the Coyote Student Center on The University of South Dakota campus Oct. 18 to visit vendor booths set up by local businesses and to take part in "Celebration of Women" festivities organized by downtown retailers Dan and Gloria Christopherson.

Many of the women who visited Vermillion for its first "Celebration of Women" are members of the Red Hat Society, which has over 10,000 chapters nationwide. The women wear purple clothing and bold, red hats.

Get it? Vermillion? Red?

Just by name alone, our community seems to be the natural place for this celebration to be held.

Year after year.

There wasn't enough room for all of the women who wanted to participate in a program and meal that were part of the festivities.

Somehow, we have to believe that Vermillion being the home of the only covered football stadium in the state could help alleviate that problem.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.com

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