Swenson among volunteers to be recognized during State Fair

By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union

Volunteers from four South Dakota communities will be recognized with Farmers Union Rural Dakota Pride award on Sept. 3, during the Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair on the Freedom Stage. The ceremony begins at 12:45 p.m.

“This is our way to thank the many rural citizens who work behind the scenes to take care of citizens in need and keep community traditions alive,” said Karla Hofhenke, Executive Director of South Dakota Farmers Union.

2022 Rural Dakota Pride Recipients are Dale Swenson, Woonsocket; Dan and Corinne Overweg, Kimball; Judy Roemich, Piedmont; and Mary Jacobs, Huron.

In 1976, Dale Swenson received notice about the upcoming Woonsocket Annual Alumni Banquet. But, for some reason, he didn’t attend.

“I heard after the banquet that, during the annual meeting, I was elected to serve as president for 1977, my 10th year out of school. The president is responsible for organizing a banquet to feed about 300. That’s when I learned, I should probably show up for meetings,” Dale said.

For nearly 40 years, Dale has done much more than attend meetings. He has worked with other community volunteers to ensure time-honored traditions, like the community Water Festival, Christmas Nativity scene on Woonsocket’s Lake Prior Island, and needed services like Meals on Wheels, continue to thrive.

It occurred to Dale that, “Someone needs to do these things, and I think, why not me,” he said.

He explains that his commitment to community stems from family roots. His family has been active members of the Woonsocket community since the 1880s.

In 1984, Dale saw a meeting announcement in the local paper. It asked for volunteers to help plan the annual Water Festival. Previously, the planning committee had dissolved, and local citizens worried that the more than a century old community tradition would end.

“As a kid, the Water Festival brought people from all over the county – it was something our community needed,” Dale says of the Fourth of July Water Festival celebrating Woonsocket’s beautiful Lake Prior with fireworks, a parade and outdoor games for all ages.

Part of a hardworking team of volunteers, Dale saw a need to bring back water-related activities. “It was the Water Festival, but there wasn’t much going on around the lake anymore, so I suggested canoe races.”

Canoe races inspired water tank races, water golf and other fun lake activities. Decades later, thanks to efforts of volunteers like Dale, the event continues to thrive.

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