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  • Things I Saw at the South Dakota State Fair

    As promised, I spent Friday at the Fair.

    Democratic Party building, South Dakota State Fair midway, 2017.09.01. Photo by Dennis Olson, Beadle/Kingsbury/District 22 Democrats.
    Democratic Party building, South Dakota State Fair midway, Huron, South Dakota, 2017.09.01. Photo by Dennis Olson, Beadle/Kingsbury/District 22 Democrats.

    Most of the time, especially once the early showers ended and the sun brought the crowds out, I was too busy with conversations to take pictures or Tweet. (We can swim in our screens anytime; the Fair is once a year.) But here is a little bit of what I saw and digitized:

    Coming down from U.S. 212 on Highway 37, I saw four Jackley for Governor signs and, closest to Huron, one Krebs for Congress sign. Jackley’s signs were the standard 4×8 plywood, with nothing but text and his name spanning the sign. Krebs’s sign looked to be maybe half that size, with her last name in too thin sans-serif font, slogan in script font, and picture with website in too small font all crammed together. If I didn’t already know who she was, that sign that far from speeding drivers might not have told me.

    Petitioners aplenty were working the Fair. The South Dakota Democratic Party has apparently endorsed the retry on independent redistricting and has that petition at its building on the midway. Three other petition booths have popped up on Third Street on the Fairgrounds:

    Represent SD had its IM22-redux petition out to give voters a chance to rectify the Legislature’s nullification of their 2016 vote to reform campaign finance and ethics laws. That canopy is new; Represent SD upgraded their table outside the Horticulture Building after the morning rains put a damper on their circulation efforts.

    Team Mickelson wanted to make it absolutely clear that they are manning their State Fair Booth and keeping their petitions secure at all times. Unfortunately, Fair officials plunked Team Mickelson right beside the Freedom Stage, meaning that most of the time, it’s really hard to hear Team Mickelson explain why out-of-state money corrupts ballot measure campaigns but not candidates like John Thune.

    Represent SD and Team Mickelson both have paid circulators and substantial cash behind them. But they still don’t have as cool or tricked-out of a booth as New Approach South Dakota:

    Melissa Mentele has three petitions at her booth—“Death with Dignity”/assisted suicide, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana. Her volunteers (she told me she had thirty coming over the weekend) are all trained to keep track of their clipboards and remove them from the table if they step away for a break to prevent any mingling of circulators on individual sheets who could foul the circulator’s witness oath.

    Along with petitions and flags, New Approach also has loot. They are selling cookbooks (all legal recipes!) and Avon bug repellent. No reliable word on whether medical or recreational marijuana will keep mosquitoes away.

    Dakota Free Press gained an exclusive look at the New Approach SD back office, the tent behind their tent, which features a computer for checking voter data and tabbing signatures, a printer for generating more petition sheets, and a stove for high-octane circulator fuel. New Approach SD was the only ballot question team I saw on the Fairgrounds with a complete mobile office. Very organized, very professional.

    Advanced Micro Targeting business card.
    Advanced Micro Targeting business card.

    If these professional Nevada petition consultants had their employees circulating petitions at the Fair, I didn’t see them. Circulators carrying the independent redistricting and open primary petitions were working people outside the gates on both sides of the Fairgrounds. Mentele tells me those circulators had a booth Thursday but got booted from the Fairgrounds for carrying their petitions around the Fairgrounds. Apparently if you don’t pay, you have no say. If that’s the case, I look forward to seeing the Fair officials applying the same thinking to candidates and expelling candidates who dare exercise their annulled First Amendment rights by working the crowds outside their booths and dispatching volunteers to walk around advertising their campaigns with t-shirts, bags, and other swag.

    I didn’t go looking for livestock, but I did find Merlin the tortoise hanging out in the Horticulture Building… or is that Tortoiculture? Merlin is a fourteen-year-old African desert tortoise who lives with the Cindy Eilers family. He may live to be 120… if he survives all the petting.

    Merlin was guarding the best hay bales in the state.

    Merlin was wishing he was over by the veggie table. Out of his envy of my freedom to walk around among such goodies, he apparently hit with a punning spell:

    Once recovered from that outburst, I checked out the 4-H art displays.

    Google stained glass—a 21st-century tech giant represented in an ancient art form—thought-provoking.

    Out in the equipment, I learned that a New Holland sprayer will clear my head by five inches (as measured by my new purple De Smet Farm Mutual yardstick, the most popular measuring device in South Dakota this long weekend). I’ve wondered about that possibility while out bicycling on country roads… but watch out for those undercarriage handles!

    The Dakotaland Museum features this old Fair menu from the Baltimore Lunch Room. I didn’t see a year on it, though I’m pretty sure it’s pre-Depression, probably a hundred years old. Once upon a time, I could have gotten corned-beef hash for ten cents.

    Alas, there was no ten-cent corned-beef hash, so I left around suppertime. It had rained on the way down and rained again over the lunch hour, but the clouds surrendered to the kind of sunshining, summer-closing Friday evening that should make any South Dakotan want to go for a long walk along the quiet railroad tracks.

    I got discount donuts and pop at Fair City Foods and headed home. I think I followed Marty Jackley in his state car out of town. West on 14 out to 281, I saw one Krebs sign and two Jackley signs.