American News, Aberdeen, Aug. 2

Cautious approach wise when it comes to liquor at fair

Brown County is right to exercise a little caution with a liquor, wine and hors d'oeuvres sampling set before the Aug. 15 Granger Smith concert at the Larry Gerlach Grandstand during the county fair.

Fair officials and county commissioners are letting the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center handle the event. The commission signed off on the idea during a meeting about two weeks ago.

Under the agreement, the Best Western Ramkota gets any profits — or swallows any losses.

And it leaves liability insurance and other concerns up to the private business rather than the fair and the county.

At least until we get a chance to see how this works and how popular it is, that seems like a wise idea.

Given the talk the past few years — this is not the first time a whiskey event has been suggested — this seems like it could be baby step toward expanding alcohol options at the grandstand during Brown County Fair week entertainment.

That could be a dicey proposition for our family-friendly fair. Of course beer has always been sold at grandstand shows, in the Clubhouse beer garden and at Centennial Village. Whiskey — or other hard liquors — seem like a different kind of game.

To be clear, it's never been suggested that liquor sales be allowed during concerts or the Dacotah Stampede Rodeo. All of the discussion has involved offering samples in a special area like a nearby tent. That's the way to do it — in a controlled environment and probably with an extra cost attached.

For one thing, that should ease the burden on law officers. And it should keep the booze out of the hands and mouths of minors.

Without question a few beers get passed along to underage concertgoers during the fair. Once the lights go down and the sun sets, it's unreasonable to believe that officers and fair officials will catch every such instance. It's just impossible.

But there's no reason to make the jobs of those people — who already log long and often unappreciated hours during fair week — more difficult.

Beyond that, members of the law enforcement community have previously expressed concerns about liquor being served at concerts or other fair-related events.

Finding licensed officers to work fair security has been a problem in the recent past. No need to make that task more difficult.

There's no harm in seeing how a sampling event goes. We expect the response will be good. But racing toward expanding alcohol options at the fair seems both unnecessary and unwise.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, July 31

Freeman cooks up a winner

Freeman cooked up a big winner this past weekend with the inaugural South Dakota Chislic Festival.

No one knows how a first-time event is ever going to perform, but when 8,000 people turned out Saturday for the festival — far exceeding what organizers had hoped for — it was evident that something special was taking place.

In fact, the festival even had a major regional impact: While 8,000 people were estimated at the event, a lot of people left after seeing the unexpectedly long lines at the event. They took their hunger to eateries in the surrounding area, which, according to accounts we've fielded, also did big business Saturday.

Clearly, Freeman has a good thing going with this event.

In a way, what was seen in Freeman last weekend is more than a little reminiscent of the debut of Yankton's Rockin' Ribfest in 2007. That event in the downtown district also opened with many unknowns and variables, and modest aims. But the inaugural turnout of more than 5,000 people was so overwhelming that vendors actually ran out of food. Organizers knew that had struck gold.

What happened with Ribfest thereafter might offer a lesson or two in Freeman's case.

A lot of the lessons are positive. In those early years, Ribfest organizers reportedly fought the temptation to expand it to two days and instead worked on solidifying what they were building. They got more vendors, offered more activities and even stretched out along Third St. and Walnut St. Many of the changes that were made were created by necessity. In particular, the fickleness of the weather prompted a move from September to June. When the original concept seemed to hit a wall, the need to grow prompted a move in 2014 to Memorial Park, where Ribfest drew approximately 15,000 people that first year. At this point, the event owned a spectacular momentum.

Of course, you can't talk about Ribfest without addressing its demise. Weather, again, played a role in forcing the cancellation of the headline entertainment in 2015, which the festival never recovered from financially. In 2017, the decision was made to move the festival away from Memorial Park to the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center and charge an admission; the latter move, in particular, was not embraced at all by a market trained to expect something for free. It was a disastrous misstep that, unfortunately, left Ribfest officially in limbo — and probably gone for good.

However, the void left in its wake this year was immediately replaced with a reboot: The new "Rock and Ribs" event in downtown Yankton performed well on the same June weekend Ribfest would have occupied, and it seems to have a bright future.

Perhaps that's another lesson: When trying to put together a new event, you can't go wrong by starting with good food. (In fact, as we recall, one of the big draws during the first couple of years of Riverboat Days was the onion rings.)

There is a lot of potential for the South Dakota Chislic Festival, and Freeman's organizers, who have to be in the stratosphere after last weekend, are well aware of it. There is certainly room for growth, and there also has to be an eye on sustainability and practicality.

But they are working with a great idea that the public seems to love, and that's at least three-quarters of the battle.

It's going to be fun to see what's on the menu next for this promising area event.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 31

The rally is much more than noise, traffic

GOOD: The 2018 Sturgis rally-goers are starting to roar into the Black Hills to the chagrin of some. Yes, it will be noisy and the streets, roads and parking lots will be filled with motorcycles and visitors. It is, however, a small price to pay for the economic benefits and national recognition it brings to Sturgis and the entire Black Hills. These visitors and their growling bikes will pump millions of dollars into the local economy over the next two weeks that will flow into the bank accounts of property and business owners, vendors and hundreds of workers. In addition, many who attend the rally will share their experiences with others in their hometowns that in turn may choose to visit or vacation in the Black Hills someday. The rally, now in its 78th year, is truly the gift that keeps giving and for a mere two weeks of inconvenience for some of us.

BAD: It's never good to see an established business going into bankruptcy and then close its doors in the middle of the night. But it takes on added meaning when it is a casino and hotel in Deadwood, which has had legalized gambling since 1989 that led to a renaissance in the historic Northern Hills mining community. The Celebrity Hotel and Casino closed at midnight on July 24 after 20 years in business and with it went 62 slot machines, 15 full-time jobs and eight part-time jobs. Last summer, it was Kevin Costner's Midnight Star Casino that closed its doors after 26 years. Deadwood still has plenty of entertaining gambling venues, but it is a good thing that it is taking steps to diversify its economy and attract a broader group of visitors. The stakes are only going to get higher for Deadwood as the competition for gambling revenue intensifies in the state and nation.

UGLY: Big Pharma and its well-heeled enablers are pushing a new class of drugs that like with the opioids epidemic could do long-lasting harm to unsuspecting patients. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the prescribing of anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin has skyrocketed by two-thirds since 1996. The drugs are part of a class known as benzodiazepines, or "benzos," which can be addictive and are particularly dangerous and even fatal when taken in combination with opioids. Big Pharma's appetite for enormous profits continues unabated while too many politicians look the other way — and as is always the case, it is the public that one way or another ends up paying the price.