Editor's Notebook

Join our Editor-at-large and founder, Bernie Hunhoff, as he offers stories, quips & travel tips gathered as he roams South Dakota. Other magazine staffers may contribute here or there as well. Enjoy the South Dakota miscellanea.

Empty Bowls is Quite Fulfilling

November 18, 2011

Brookings folks gathered at the United Church of Christ on 8th Street last night for the eighth annual Empty Bowls banquet. They invited me to come and say a few words about hunger and South Dakota's food culture. Considering the fact that words like POOR and POVERTY make us very uncomfortable in this state, it was inspiring to gather with several hundred folks who are not only willing to talk about such disturbing words but actually want to do something about it.

In a few hours, the crowd raised $7,300 for Heifer International. I sat by a farm couple from Sinai. They make donations to Heifer International annually to honor the memory of their son, who died five years ago. The motivations were many, but the cause was one.

The "banquet" consisted of a bowl of soup and a bun, served in beautiful bowls handcrafted by South Dakota's favorite potter, Dave Huebner of nearby Bushnell. There was music and prayers and a little nonsense from me.

For example, I told the story of the Wertz brothers from Bancroft, S.D., in Kingsbury County. The young brothers loved to farm, but in the 1930s it didn't even pay to plant so they decided to start a cereal factory. They knew they needed a "gun" to puff the wheat, so they made one from the parts of an old threshing machine. Having no engineering training, they made sure it was plenty big.

They rented a building in Bancroft, set up the big gun and fired it off. KABOOOOM! They nearly blew down the building. It was a bit too powerful.

So they went back to the threshing machine and found a smaller auger, and they downsized the gun. They found another building in Bancroft, and soon they were selling New Deal Puffed Wheat far and wide for 10 cents a bag.

Why can't you buy New Deal Puffed Wheat in your local grocery store today? There's a very simple reason.

The Wertz brothers were farmers. As soon as it rained, they closed the factory and went back to the land.

We are a farming people in South Dakota. We grow food. If anybody should care about poverty and hunger, it's us. Last night it was a treat to gather with 200 who care very deeply.

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First Lady Charms South Dakotans

November 17, 2011

Laura Bush gave the keynote address at Wednesday night's 30th annual Law Enforcement Banquet in Sioux Falls, and she charmed the 1,700 South Dakotans in attendance.

The annual banquet was started 30 years ago by longtime Sioux Falls businessman and politician Gene Abdallah. His first event had just 53 in attendance, but the popularity has steadily grown and today the tickets are in high demand. Law enforcement officers, politicians, business leaders and others from throughout South Dakota gather to dine on antelope goulash, pheasant and other such delicacies. Abdallah and his volunteer team have raised over $1.5 million for children's charities in the three decades.

I've only been to a few of the events, but I've not seen a speaker set a better tone than the former first lady of the United States. A lifelong lover of books, she said Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories on South Dakota made a lasting impression on her and she hopes to return someday to see the Ingalls homestead and haunts, which of course are in De Smet. She gave updates on the Bush family, and joshed that she has had to teach George to pick up his socks now that he's a private citizen in Dallas, Texas. She spoke with great fondness and humor about her mother-in-law, the irascible Barbara Bush.

And she quieted the crowd with her remembrances of September 11, 2011, when she happened to be with Senator Ted Kennedy on Capitol Hill as news of the tragedy unfolded. She said Kennedy chatted with her to help calm her nerves. Later, she rejoined the president in the spartan bunker below the White House. They retired to their regular bedroom, but were awoken in the middle of the night when another suspicious plane was spotted in the air. It was a false alarm. 

The event was also a sweet and funny farewell to Abdallah's tenure as founder and leader. Abdallah plays the chump in the state legislature, but he's a power to be reckoned with. He has experience and savvy that is hard to match. And nobody takes him for granted because he has an independent streak as wide as his trademark grin. A few years ago when a few of us were trying to gather bi-partisan support for a proposal to stop South Dakota from investing in companies that supported the genocidal regime in Sudan, Gene Abdallah was the first in his party to stand up and say that there is a social responsibility that comes with investing hundreds of millions of dollars. He has never been too cautious to break away from the herd.

Gene's longtime buddy Bill Mickelson and his son, Scott, will now lead what has become known as the Wild Game Feed. But nobody's going to replace Abdallah. He'll still be the star attraction.

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Fishing Report from Pickstown

November 16, 2011

The salmon of the Dakotas are migrating southward, thanks to the big flood of 2011 in the Missouri River valley. Katie and I stopped for breakfast last Friday at Fort Randall Bait and Tackle in Pickstown (very fine omelets, by the way). Of course, you can't eat at a bait shop without asking about the fishing.

The waitress gave us a thorough report. The walleye are still biting, and boats are thick below the dam. Plus she said a few anglers have even caught salmon. Now that's a new development for Gregory and Charles Mix counties in South Dakota.

Chinook salmon from the West Coast have been released into the Fort Peck and Oahe reservoirs for a number of years with good results. The waters in those lakes run deep and cold, and the salmon seem to thrive — though they don't grow as big as they do in the Pacific Northwest.

Adult salmon instinctively try to migrate back to the place where they were hatched and released to spawn. In the Dakotas, that would be a government fish hatchery. The cycle is actually completed, because hatchery workers capture some of the salmon and collect the eggs in autumn.

Due to the massive water releases in all six Missouri River dams this summer, some salmon from Fort Peck and Oahe have swam southward into Lake Sharpe and Lake Francis Case. I haven't heard of any reports of salmon caught in Lewis and Clark Lake.

Next October, the adult salmon will try to swim back to the north to spawn ...  but they have a giant concrete problem lying ahead of them.

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2011: Our Summer of Geocaching

October 26, 2011

After spending the summer atop the Coughlin Campanile in Brookings, South Dakota Magazine’s strategically placed geocache is now back at the magazine’s headquarters in Yankton.

We’re fairly new to geocaching, but it seems our maiden voyage was successful. Between Memorial Day weekend and mid-October, 111 people (plus the SDSU track team) signed our notebook. Some just walked across town. Others came from faraway places, like Honduras and Australia.

Many left little notes. Will and Shirley Dangler ascended the 180 steps on July 7. “Whew!” Shirley said. “AC not working!” Will added. For that we apologize, but perhaps a donation to the SDSU Foundation would solve the problem. Air conditioners are probably on sale now. Maybe a large box fan would suffice.

Chad Coppess, David Anderson and Jolee Thurn visited two days later and discovered the elevator was out of order. Of course, there is no elevator in the Campanile. That would take all the fun out of getting to the top, especially on a hot, humid summer day. Again, feel free to mention it to the Foundation, though they’ll probably think the box fan solution is more cost effective.

Most visitors commented on the view, which is the most spectacular in Brookings. The Campanile, built in 1929, is 165 feet tall, and provides a view of the entire city and surrounding farmsteads. We’re glad you enjoyed it. And we’re certain you’ll enjoy the scenery around next summer’s location.

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Corn Maze Provides Fall Fun

October 10, 2011

Yankton area folks going to Hebda Family Produce to pick their own pumpkins this month will want to study this photo well, as it depicts this year's corn maze. Dale and Rena Hebda and family got their start in the world of fresh produce in 2002, when their son Steven started growing vegetables for 4-H. As he expanded into farmers’ market sales and weekly home delivery of produce, his interest grew into a family business. In 2006, the Hebdas purchased Garritys’ Prairie Gardens, located north and west of Mission Hill, where their 55 acre farm produces a variety of fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, salsa and pies, and fun harvest-related activities for the whole family. 

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After the Long Rise

October 5, 2011

Dave Tunge of Dakota Aerials recently sent us this picture of the Missouri River between Vermillion and Yankton.  He pointed out that the Corps of Engineers spent eight years and millions of dollars building sandbars to provide habitat for wildlife, but it took Mother Nature only a few months to accomplish all this.

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Richard and Marge Kleinjan’s Excellent Adventure

September 26, 2011

Richard Kleinjan called our office first thing Monday morning to order a new copy of our July/August 2011 issue. It seems their issue, which contained our feature on things to see in each of South Dakota’s 66 counties, had become tattered and torn because he and his wife used it as they visited every one of our featured sites.

Other readers have called to tell us they’ve gone to a handful of places, but the Kleinjans are the first – to our knowledge – to have completed the statewide journey.

They began not long after the issue hit the stands in July with a trip to see the Grandfather Rock near Flandreau in Moody County. They finished on Saturday with stops in Jackson and Jones counties and a drive on the Bad River Road into Fort Pierre. Kleinjan told us he was unfamiliar with many of our recommendations, and believes many aren’t locally known, either. “You don’t read about them in any travel brochures,” he says.

The Kleinjans were enjoying breakfast in Edgemont one morning when he asked a local about the hieroglyphics in Red Canyon. “I’ve lived here 20 years and I’ve never heard of it,” he told Kleinjan. And he says many in Brookings County are unaware of Sam Mortimer’s historic cabin, which stands in Oakwood Lakes State Park near Bruce.

Another memorable stop was the Stratobowl in Pennington County. Kleinjan said he and his wife stopped there 53 years ago during their honeymoon, but didn’t venture down into the bowl. “You get a better idea of why they launched there than when you just look down from above,” he says. “It’s well protected, so the wind wouldn’t have any effect on the balloon.”

So after two months of travel, the Kleinjans are back home in Arlington. The next task, he says, is organizing the pictures they snapped at every stop.

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Fill 'er Up With Music

September 23, 2011

If you like good music, be sure to swing by the Crandall Pumps this weekend. Owner Dave Swain is holding his annual fall music festival there from 2-5 p.m. Sunday afternoon. He’ll have a few light refreshments, like candy bars, coffee and ice cream. But the real treat will be the local musicians, whom you can hear from your lawn chairs just a stone’s throw from the rugged Coteau hills, which pass just to the east of town.

The historic gas station is one of the only remnants of Crandall, which lies about seven miles straight east of Conde. It was a full-service station that catered to drivers passing through on Highway 20 until it closed in 1971. At the time, it was the only station in the country still using gravity pumps. The Standard Oil Company wanted to include them in a museum, but the station owner produced a receipt proving he owned them, so they still stand in front of the tidy white building.

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The Monarch Mystery

September 9, 2011

Thousands of monarch butterflies are fluttering through eastern South Dakota on their way to Mexico, where they will spend the winter.  Their annual migration has stumped scientists for decades. This generation of monarchs has never been to Mexico, so how do they know where to go?

To better understand the mystery, here’s a brief synopsis of the monarch life cycle. In the spring, when monarchs head north, they fly only a short distance before they lay eggs. That dramatically shortens their life span, and soon they die. The cycle repeats through the spring, so the butterflies that eventually arrive in South Dakota may be the great-grandchildren of the monarchs passing through right now. Theoretically, they shouldn’t know a thing about Mexico.

On Thursday, a group led by Jody Moats of the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve gathered at Spirit Mound north of Vermillion to tag monarchs. The tiny, sticky dots affixed to a wing help researchers track their flight and provide other data that might someday help solve the monarch mystery. Click the image above to watch a short video of the tagging.

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Whereizzit in South Dakota?

September 2, 2011

Last month we nearly stumped you with the Whereizzit of the old store near Burke. Let's see if you are up on your religious statue locations in South Dakota. Who can guess where Bernie took this photo in May of 2010? We'll provide some clues as the day goes on.

The winner is the first person to correctly identify the location or name the small town that is nearby. You'll win a free gift subscription which you can keep for yourself or award to anyone you wish! Good luck.

Clue #1: We'll start out by cutting the state in half. It's East River but only by a few miles.

Clue #2 -- This is a very small town of mostly Czech heritage.
Clue #3 -- The statue, of course, represents the church's namesake.

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Gassman at Sylvan Lake Lodge

August 30, 2011

South Dakota Magazine photographer Stephen Gassman is currently residing (through Wednesday) at Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park. As the artist in residence he has been photographing the park during the day and in the lodge's gallery from 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. and from 5:00-10:00 pm to sign photographs and meet with fans. 

Gassman's photos have been appearing in our magazine for about a decade. Here's a little slideshow of his work. For more info on Gassman, and to see a more complete portfolio, visit his website

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Meet Our New Staffer

August 15, 2011

Today’s an exciting day at the office. We began the day with some wheat bread and homemade raspberry jam, brought by our newest staffer, Laura Johnson. Laura is our assistant marketing director. She will be working with Heidi Marsh to be sure fresh, entertaining material is always available to you on our website.

Gardening and cooking are some of Laura’s favorite hobbies, so she might start contributing some recipes and food articles. Laura wrote a couple of paragraphs to introduce herself to our web readers. We asked her to share the raspberry jam recipe with you, too.

Our new staffer, Laura Johnson.


I started out life on a farm north of Mission Hill. I can remember hot summer days spent out in the bean field spraying weeds with my dad and brothers. Every now and then, Dad would suggest we quit early for the day and head over to Ponds of Fun to relax. By Ponds of Fun, he meant the scummy, snapping turtle-infested pond in Mission Hill. It had its hazards, but the water was cool and it beat working. 

After 13 years spent in exile in Minnesota, I moved back to South Dakota in 2006. One of the things that brought me back home was the desire to spend time with aging grandparents, but another draw was the ability to see the sky again. When you grow up loving farmland and prairie, being hemmed in on all sides by trees and buildings can be rather oppressive.

Last year, I was allowed access to a friend's abandoned raspberry patch. I wasn't even sure I liked raspberries, but was lured in by the idea of free food and the ability to indulge in my passion for pulling weeds. Once I had experienced the thrill of seeking out the little red berries while fighting off insects, thorny raspberry canes, and giant weeds, I was hooked. Once my friends and family tried the homemade raspberry jam that resulted from my labor, they were hooked too. Be careful who you choose to give a jar to - they will pester you for more.

Raspberry jam glows atop a slice of peanut butter toast.

Red Raspberry Preserves

4 cups raspberries
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Makes about 3 cups.

Sort fresh raspberries, discarding any that are soft, moldy, or otherwise dubious looking. Rinse and drain them well.

Stir the raspberries, sugar, and the lemon juice together in a bowl, using a rubber spatula. Let the mixture stand, stirring gently once or twice, until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 hours.

Scrape the mixture into a stainless steel or other nonreactive large skillet or sauté pan. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly with a straight-ended wooden or nylon spatula, and boil it rapidly, stirring often, until it passes the jelly test; this will take from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the juiciness of the berries. Remove from the heat.

Skim off any foam and ladle the hot preserves into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Seal the jars with new two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer’s directions and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Cool, label and store the jars. The preserves will keep for at least a year in a cool cupboard.

If the jelling doesn’t work out, do not fret. Even if it does slide off your toast, the cooked berry-sugar mixture will still make a fine sauce for ice cream, waffles, or anything else that would benefit from a sweet, fruity topping.

From “The Good Stuff Cookbook” by Helen Witty 

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De Smet in the Times

August 9, 2011

Years have passed since we've covered the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead in our magazine. This gorgeous slideshow by David Eggen from the New York Times reminded us why we need to get up there. 

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Whereizzit in South Dakota?

August 5, 2011

Our editor has been up and down just about every paved road in South Dakota in 26 years of publishing the magazine, but he was traveling this week and came upon a stretch he hadn't seen before. He snapped this picture of a long-closed service station. It is within a long stone's throw of a very small town, and is on a state highway. We know this is a tough one. We'll provide some clues as the day goes on. One clue is the very fact that Bernie hadn't wandered onto this road in 26 years.

The winner is the first person to correctly identify the location or name the small town that is nearby. You'll win a free gift subscription which you can keep for yourself or award to anyone you wish! Good luck.

Clue No. 1 — Ok, we'll cut the state in half. It is in West River.

Clue No. 2 — We'll cut the state in quarters. It is south of I-90.

Clue No. 3 — There's a river nearby with a Sioux name that means "turtle hill."

Clue No. 4 — You'll associate the town's name with our prison system.

Fran Ceila Hill is the winner! It is south of Burke along Highway 47, right on the SD/Neb border. 

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Mortimer's Cabin

July 20, 2011

Photo by Christian Begeman


In our July/August issue we featured one spot to visit in each of our 66 counties. We chose Mortimer's Cabin in Oakwood Lakes State Park for Brookings County. And we got lucky because photographer Christian Begeman offered to go photograph the cabin. 

Samuel Mortimer, a New York City shoemaker, built the cabin when he came to South Dakota in 1869. He became a successful fur trader.

Mortimer's Cabin was Niels and Emma Jensen's first home in America.

This morning we got an email from Merry Strenge in Clearbrook, Minn. She wrote that her grandparents once lived in Mortimer's cabin. They worked for a farmer and were able to live in the cabin. Merry wrote "I remember the day we went for a ride through Oakwood State Park with them and stopped there for that picture and they shared their memories of living in the small cabin. They worked hard and saved their money and ended up buying a farm west of Aurora."

Oakwood is an idyllic cluster of eight glacial lakes with nearly five miles of paths for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. To get there, drive seven miles north and 10 west of Brookings.

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Flood News

July 7, 2011

We're not enjoying the flood all that much in Yankton County, but it has made reading the morning newspaper more interesting than ever.

The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan is one of only two daily newspapers that still have local ownership, and it's probably no coincidence that it's also one of the best little dailies in the West. The staff and readers are going to celebrate the paper's 150th anniversary later this summer (good Lord willing and the Missouri don't rise any more). Never in my memory has our local newspaper done a better job of guiding the community through a difficult period.

Yankton and other South Dakota communities are not strangers to disasters. We have had our share of fires, floods, tornadoes, blizzards and other such mayhem. But seldom does a disaster linger for weeks, as this flood does. For those most affected, it is a slow-motion disaster. Though the water is broiling through the dams and speeding down the river channel, time is nearly at a standstill for home owners and farmers who wait and wait to see how it will all end.

Through it all, the writers and editors of our paper have kept southeast South Dakota in the know. They've dispelled rumors (no, the Corps of Engineers has not inserted dynamite in the cracks in the dam ... and no, there are no cracks in the dam). They've put out the word for volunteers, and taught us the language of a flood. Everybody now understands that a CFS is a cubic foot per second of water, about the same volume of a basketball. They've photographed and editorialized and reported on long, boring meetings and issued alerts .... and it doesn't stop.

In today's edition, editor/photographer Kelly Hertz shows a picture of two lads using a park bench as a fishing dock at Lake Yankton. Of course, park benches are normally ashore. Priceless photography.

Also today, the paper reports that the Corps will divert surplus water through four regulating tunnels at Fort Randall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so the spillway (40 acres of concrete) can undergo a routine inspection. It is just the second time in history that such a high volume of water will be released through the tunnels. 

The paper also notes that a man fell into the James River while fishing. He became stuck in the mud. A deputy fished him out.

And in the classifieds, Bob Monfore notes that he lost his boat dock by Choteau Creek near Avon,. It's a heavy bridge plank deck on two pontoons. Call 286-3644 if you see it floating by your farm.

The lake temperature today, according to the paper, is 70 degrees. Lake elevation is 1206.16 feet. Tailwater elevation is 1171.81. Oh, and the CFS is still at 160,000.

 If you must endure a summer-long flood, it's nice to have a local newspaper as a guide.

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Music to My Ears

June 23, 2011

Does anyone else think this is lovely? It's the sound of chorus frogs and other wildlife at the EcoSun Prairie Farmnear Colman. The farm was established in 2007 with the "purpose of demonstrating how to make a sustained and earned living from restored grassland and grass products while protecting and enhancing the natural environment."

At the center of their efforts is restoring tall grass prairie and wetland grasses. By the sound of this video, some small creatures are happy with their efforts. 

Join a public tour of EcoSun Prairie Farms on July 15. Visit this page for more information.

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Hit the Road!

June 21, 2011

The July/August issue arrived yesterday. If you subscribe, you should be getting your copy soon. Inside you'll find a 20-page guide featuring one special thing to see in each of our 66 counties. I like to think of them as 66 road trip ideas. Pick up a copy to see what we landmark we chose from your county!

Other features in the magazine include: 

When the Highway Came to Elk Point ... How Eisenhower's interstate program changed South Dakota. 

Like it or Not: A Zucchini Cook-off ... Six ways to rid yourself of our most prolific vegetable. 

Sent to Moon, South Dakota ... Leave your lunar gear at home but take a map. By Paul Higbee

Family 'Artnership in Sioux Falls ... Mary Groth and Liz Bashore Heeren's collaborations bear fruit. 

A Night on the Town in Rapid City ... Art Alley adds spunk to 'Summer Nights.' Photography by Jeremiah M. Murphy. 

Call our office at 1(800) 456-5117 if you'd like to order a copy. 

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The First Song to the Flood of 2011

June 16, 2011

Fill Your Hearts with Love & Your Shovels With Dirt

South Dakotans in the way of the river have been too busy sandbagging, moving furniture and — in a few cases — blaming the Corps of Engineers to find time to reflect. But not everyone.

Kris Kitko, a talented folk singer in North Dakota, has written a hauntingly beautiful song about the ravages of the Missouri in her state. Both the video and the lyrics reflect just as well on South Dakota — except that the prisoners in North Dakota who volunteered their assistance are in stripes rather than orange.

Well-known Pierre artist Jim Pollock is keeping a journal of his community's trials and tribulations. Surely his sketchbook is in a back pocket.

Dave Tunge, South Dakota's best aerial photographer, has been flying his Piper Cub up and down the river valley, shooting images from 1,000 feet.

Fires come and go in hours. Tornadoes in mere minutes. This particular flood will batter us for weeks, and eventually many more artists and songwriters and photographers will find the time and inspiration to try to explain what is happening to the river people.

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We're Back!

June 9, 2011

Heidi Marsh, our marketing director, is pioneering our online efforts.

Hopefully you've missed South Dakota Magazine's online presence. Well, here we are with a new look and some new content. We've had many meetings and work sessions, trying to plan for the best possible site for our readers. We have a vision for this to be a site that celebrates life in South Dakota.

Please visit us often for stories — some written just for the Web, and others revised from past issues of the magazine. We'll also provide an up-to-date calendar of events, colorful photo galleries, recipes and food stories. Several columnists will bring new perspective to the site, and we're making other plans as well. We'd like this to be an everyday extension of our magazine, which we print six times a year. We have a lot to share in between issues!

Our marketing director, Heidi Marsh, is pioneering our online efforts. She ushered us into the online world when she joined our staff by getting us on facebook and twitter and sending out e-newsletters. Now she is becoming a web expert by learning the ins and outs of web design and function. Here's a little interesting trivia on Heidi — she is 26 years old, the exact same age as South Dakota Magazine. She was even born in the same month our first issue appeared on newsstands.

What you see here is just the beginning. Tell us what you think of this new look, and what you'd like to see more of (or less).

In other magazine news, we're sending our July/August issue of the paper magazine to the printer today. It will be on newsstands by July 1.  Our magazine staff will be celebrating after work this Friday on the dock at Yankton's historic Ice House. Stop by and break a beer bottle with us. It's an Ice House tradition.

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