Between the Lines: D-Days: An event that brings out one’s best

Ok, so maybe it wasn't exactly a "beat your swords into plowshares" moment.

Governor Dennis Daugaard and his wife, Linda, chat with USD President James Abbott (left) at the Austin-Whittemore House before the start of Saturday’s Dakota Days Parade. (Photo by David Lias)

But the Dakota Days Parade has the tendency to bring out the best in everyone.

Before the start of the parade Saturday, dignitaries gathered at the Austin-Whittemore House, which serves as the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and a donut while socializing before the parade.

As more and more people arrived, it became apparent that nearly every political stripe in the state was represented.

Even opponents in last year's November election found themselves face-to-face. No uncomfortable moments followed.

Jason Gant and Ben Nesselhuf arrived at nearly the same time.

Gant, a USD grad and former member of the South Dakota Senate, was the Republican candidate for South Dakota Secretary of State last year.

Nesselhuf, who grew up in Vermillion, represented District 17 in both houses of the South Dakota Legislature for many years, and also attended USD, was his Democratic opponent.

Gant won the election, and currently is serving in Pierre. Nesselhuf remains active in politics as chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party. 

While I wouldn't be surprised if Nesselhuf has been scouting for someone to challenge Gant at the end of his first term, and Gant no doubt has been devoting time to preparing for his re-election bid, the two didn't appear to be politicking Saturday morning.

And, you could sense they were a bit relieved about that. Last year, the two men were dignitaries in countless parades, walking miles and miles among floats and horses and antique automobiles, throwing candy, passing out campaign literature, kissing babies – that sort of thing.

Saturday, they both again were part of the Dakota Days Parade. Gant arrived to participate; Nesselhuf returned to Vermillion simply to watch the event. Neither was in campaign mode. They were in Vermillion to enjoy being a part of the day's festivities.

"I've been to a lot of D-Days," said Gant, a 1999 graduate of USD. "It was great coming here last year when we were campaigning, but even better to come here to say 'hi' to folks and enjoy all of the festivities."

A lot has changed in nearly a year, he added. "I'm very excited to be secretary of state for the last nine months, and I've been very active in doing all sorts of technology innovations within the office, and I've really been enjoying my time (in Pierre)."

"This is the first D-Days parade in 11 years that I'm not an active participant," Nesselhuf said. He and his wife, Angie, planned to sit in a friend's yard along the parade route and simply watch it go by. "I'm very excited about that," he said.

Saturday was also a welcome break in the busy routine of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and his wife, Linda, who served as parade marshals.

"This is great fun," the governor said before the start of the parade. "Of course, we've been to the Dakota Days parade in recent years in 'campaign mode,' and then of course it's all about 'do we have the literature, do we have the people, do we have enough t-shirts to clothe everyone that's in our entourage' and then you have to rush to the next campaign event.

"So this weekend, it's really nice to be in Vermillion … and to be here for the parade, and we're going to the game," he said. "It's just very nice to be in here, relaxing and enjoying the weekend."

What could be better than that?

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