birthday partyâ�?�? Vermillionâ�?�?s celebration
kicks off Aug. 6 By Patrick Morrison
Plain Talk For the six members of the Vermillion Sesquicentennial Executive Committee, next weekend's events celebrating Vermillion's 150th year have been four years in the making. Executive Committee Co-Chair Cleo Erickson said the committee wanted to stay ahead of the curve by planning the yearlong event well in advance of 2009. "The reason why we started so long ago is because we wanted to ensure that the 150th Anniversary was remembered," Erickson said. "One hundred fifty years for this part of the country is a long time and we wanted to make sure Vermillion had a proper birthday party." Vermillion Mayor Dan Christopherson said roughly 25-30 community members expressed interest in helping to plan the Sesquicentennial during a public meeting in 2005, out of which the six-member executive committee was formed. "Ever since that first meeting, the executive committee has meet every few months or weeks to do the bulk of the planning and fine-tuning," he said. Erickson and Christopherson are joined on the executive committee by Chair Gloria Barnes, Joe Reedy, Roger Kozak and Steve Howe. Although the weekend of Aug. 6-9 will be the focal point of the Sesquicentennial, Christopherson said the committee wanted to extend events throughout 2009. "We thought that it is pretty hard, if not impossible, to cram everything into a single weekend," he said. "You just get more value for an event when you stretch it out over a long period of time. One hundred fifty years is a huge milestone and it would be better celebrated if we designated an entire year to that event." Reedy agreed. "We wanted to get more people involved in the 150th anniversary, so we thought spreading events through the year would accomplish that," Reedy said. A concert by Vermillion resident and professional opera singer Scott Piper kicked off the Sesquicentennial year in January, Reedy said. Other events included a New Years Eve gathering at the DakotaDome, a "Tour of Tables" at Trinity Lutheran Church, a Fourth of July Celebration and a presentation of In Every Generation: An Original Musical Photograph by the Vermillion Community Theatre. Erickson said the Sesquicentennial weekend would begin with a community barbecue on Thursday, Aug. 6 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Prentis Park. Four caterers will be on-hand to serve a meal of pork loin sandwiches free of charge and Erickson said the committee hopes to serve close to 2,000 people. Following the barbecue, the youth wind orchestra from Vermillion's sister city of Ratingen, Germany, will give a free concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Vermillion High School, Christopherson said. "This isn't your run-of-the-mill high school band," he said. "They are very accomplished musicians who are looking forward to performing in South Dakota." Reedy said Friday will mostly be devoted to the first day of the Vermillion All-School Reunion, an event he and others in the community have been looking forward to. "My class has meet every 10 years since 1945, and I think we are all excited to see how young everybody looks," he said. Christopherson agreed with Reedy, adding that the reunion will play a large role in the weekend's events. "It's hard to say what event has the most people excited, but I know that the All-School Reunion is going to be a big draw," Christopherson said. "A lot of graduates will be coming back to help us celebrate the sesquicentennial." On Saturday, events will range from free airplane rides for children to the All-School Reunion dance, Erickson said. In particular, the Sesquicentennial parade has been drawing a significant amount of interest from community members, she said. "It's just growing all of the time," she said. "Our parade entries have been taking off; so far, we have close to 60 participants, ranging from local community groups to John Deere tractors." Other entrants include a Banjo Band from Sioux City, IA, the Vermillion High School Marching Band, the Corn Palace Hillbillies from Mitchell and a Vermillion couple who will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary the day of the parade. Erickson added that a Kiddy Parade would also be taking place Saturday morning, with prizes being given out for best entrants and best-dressed pets. Anyone interested in entering either parade should contract the Austin-Whittemore house. Finally, Christopherson said the bulk of Sunday's activities would take place at the Vermillion Airport. Events include a fly-in breakfast, a military fly-over and an air show performed by two private companies. To many, however, the highlight of Sunday's events could be the dedication of the airport's new runway in honor of long-time state pilot Denny Martens, Christopherson said. "We just completed a new white-topping runway at the airport, which is the first of its kind in the state of South Dakota," he said. "The people involved with it have been very excited to provide a state-of-the-art runway for the airport that could last anywhere from 50 to 75 years." For Christopherson, however, the key part of the Sesquicentennial is the enhanced sense of community the anniversary has fostered. "The participation of so many different people and the interest buzzing in the community has been one of the best parts of the anniversary," he said. "The main thing is for people to get together and celebrate our history and our heritage."