Hello fellow huskers and friends! Well we are home after a wonderful trip to South Dakota for the thirty-third annual National Cornhusking Contest. I am writing this article two weeks after the Contest so that I can get it to Patrick Fruth, our editor, in a timely manner. Simply put, we had a very enjoyable time, as usual! The Contest was only one event that made our trip so enjoyable, though a significant one. On the way to Dell Rapids, we first went to St. Paul to see one of my sisters. It was the first time that we had visited Linda and David, her husband. They both practice medicine in St. Paul, though they actually live near Stillwater which is northeast of St. Paul. They have a fine pair of college-age sons and a very beautiful home and acreage. We spent Friday evening with them, and then were on the road Saturday morning to Dell Rapids. We made the field by early afternoon and watched much of the South Dakota state contest. A second event accomplished during our cornhusking trip was an excursion to the Black Hills after the contest. It was a seven hundred mile detour, but it was well worth the effort. Anne had never seen Mt. Rushmore, and well, we were already in South Dakota. So, a couple of extra days allowed us to see some wonderful country, monuments, topographical features, and some friends. We ended up driving a little over twenty-two hundred miles, all in the guise of a national cornhusking trip! With the excitement of the actual trip and a few weeks of anticipation prior to the event, you can see why husking season is so much fun for me.
Before I get into the credits and appreciative statements for the work of the South Dakota Heritage Association in hosting our National, I first want to say a little about Dell Rapids. We were impressed by the appearance and history of the community. The town of approximately three thousand people seemed so pristine and well-maintained. We noted from the city brochure that the community was founded because of the beautiful area, water resources, and good soil. Originally called Dell City, the town’s name was changed to Dell Rapids because the rapids of the Big Sioux River divided the town. The dells, just southwest of the community, was formed when a glacier moved through the area about a million years ago. A shift in the earth’s surface caused a fissure in the bedrock formation and created a small canyon that the river flows through. It made for a delightful excursion to see during the course of the weekend. The community is also well known for the beautiful rose-colored quartzite mined nearby and the many quartzite buildings listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Of course, the community is also known as the host site of the 1938 National. The trip to Dell Rapids would not have been complete without a visit to the ’38 cornfield a short distance northeast of town and a view of the historic marker. The marker was dedicated in 1999 by the Minnehaha Historical Society, Curry Seed Company, Reece Farm Supply, Dell Rapids Society for Historical Preservation, and the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council. The marker cites a brief account of the 1938 National. The bottom field where the Contest was held was in clear view of the Dell Rapids School, the location of the Saturday evening banquet.
It was the intent of the Dakota Heritage Association to relive some husking history by hosting the 2007 National contest at the 1938 contest site. All of the arrangements had been made to bring this to fruition, however, ten days of very wet weather and approximately six inches of rain prior to the contest date foiled the effort. Therefore, the Association had to abandon the bottom field on the Ray Jensen farm in favor of another family-owned field just north of town. Luckily, the family had not yet harvested that piece of hill-ground corn, and it provided a much dryer area to host both days of husking.
The South Dakota Association banquet on Saturday evening at the Dell Rapids Middle School enjoyed good attendance and featured very good food. A crowd of approximately 175 huskers, family, and friends were served steak, baked potato, scalloped corn, and dessert. Prior to the banquet, a National Cornhuskers Association rules meeting was held followed by a short NCA business meeting. After the meal, awards were presented to the state contest winners by the Heritage Association.
The weather for the state contest on Saturday was very mild compared to Sunday’s conditions. On Saturday, the temperature reached the mid-70s with a slight breeze. However, Sunday brought drastically different conditions. A cold front rolled into the area early Sunday morning that brought lots of clouds. The air temperature steadily dropped through the day to the mid-40s. A light shower began around 4:00 p.m., just in time for the Men’s Open. A stiff breeze and the rain helped to make conditions tougher and less enjoyable for the 104 huskers and spectators as the afternoon progressed.
Even though the weather was a little tough during the National contest on Sunday, it did not diminish in any way all of the work and effort that the South Dakota Heritage Association expended in hosting this year’s very successful national contest. The field conditions were very good considering the fact that the Association had to move the location of the contest site due to excessive rain. The tents that were provided for the huskers and spectators were much appreciated by all in attendance, especially when the rain came. I believe that I counted approximately sixteen teamsters and outfits on the field for the huskers along with a couple of outfits that provided transportation to spectators back and forth to the lands. Much credit goes to all of the South Dakota Association workers and their officers for a job well done! Fred Fedeler served as the Association president along with the very capable help of his wife, Verna. Fred also served as our National president, as well. Harriet DeVries handled the secretarial/treasurer duties for the Dakota group along with help provided by her husband, Lowell. Myron Joneson served as vice-president with help from his wife Margaret, and Lowell Graves was the teamster contact person. Also, much appreciation goes to Ray Jensen and his family for making available the site and corn for husking.
Finally, before I end this article, I want express our gratitude to Bob Blumer and the Gluton For Punishment television crew for participating in our husking competitions. Bob was filmed as a first-time competitor by the crew, and the footage will be aired as a Gluton For Punishment episode on television in early 2008. Even though Bob received expert husking guidance from one of our excellent huskers, John Van Liere, he unfortunately finished in last place in the Men’s Open. He performed admirably for a rookie, but I believe his position in the standings could have been improved had he turned over a few minutes of his heat to John for some of his husking. At any rate, much fun was had with Bob, and maybe, down the road he will participate in some future contest.
I want to extend my congratulations to all the class winners and my best wishes to all of you for a safe and prosperous new year. Before we know it, we will be talking about spring planting conditions and how good of a corn stand we have in 2008. Until the spring issue of Shucks, may God bless us all!
Mitchel Burns NCA Historian