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Fort Pierre, Ree Heights team named reserve champions at SD Rodeo Finals

Kristie Hoggarth of Fort Pierre is part of a trio who won Reserve Champion in team penning at the South Dakota Rodeo Association Finals over the weekend in Sioux Falls.

“There’s a ton of us from Fort Pierre,” Hoggarth said Monday when asked about the finals and the SDRA amateurs. “It was awesome.”

Kyle Hapney of Fort Pierre was named champion in the saddle bronc riding with $4,976.69 in yearly winnings in SDRA events. Bailey Tibbs of Fort Pierre, a young relative of the late legendary rodeo champion Casey Tibbs, placed in the women’s events.

Hoggarth grew up on a ranch near Watertown and for seven years has been “a hired hand” at a Stoeser ranch west of Fort Pierre and other places, much of the time on horseback, she says.

She competes with Mary Fawcett of Ree Heights and Lennie Steffen of Colome in the team penning event on the SDRA circuit.

Over the weekend, they came in second statewide for the season, each winning $2,762.89 for the year, $2,200 of it coming at the finals held Oct. 11-13 in the W.H.Lyons arena at the fairgrounds in Sioux Falls.

The team penning event has 12 teams competing over how fast each team can cut out, sort and “pen” three head from a herd of 36 yearlings at one end of the rodeo arena to a virtual “pen” at the other end, about 200 feet away. Each steer or heifer has one of 12 numbers, so each team goes after its designated trio, one team at a time. They don’t use ropes or whips and can’t bump the steers or heifers with their horses. That kind of behavior, by rider or horse, will lead to penalties in team penning.

In team penning, it typically takes two horses-and-riders to hold the main herd while the third team member sorts out a steer or heifer with the right number. They work as fast as possible and must do it in less than 75 seconds. If it works out, they will sort out more than one yearling at a time, driving them to the other end of the arena. They have to watch them to make sure they don’t return to the herd. Once they have the three head in the virtual “pen,” the timer calls it.

Meanwhile, if the rest of the herd wanders across the half-court line in the arena, it’s a “no-time” for the team; the equivalent of a bronc rider getting bucked off.

By the end of a team penning event, after each of the teams, in turn, has sorted out and “penned” its correctly numbered three yearlings, the 36-head herd can either be wilder or more docile from all the attention, Fawcett said. “It can go either way.”

SDRA history

The SDRA was formed in Fort Pierre in 1955 for amateur cowboys. Willie Cowan was one of the original board members and is the only one still around. He was honored at a banquet Friday for that and made a member of the SDRA Hall of Fame, Fawcett said.

Women’s events were added over the years. Team penning, which can include any mix of men or women, was added in 1989.

“We’re amateurs, not professionals,” Fawcett said. “We do it for fun, maybe 10 to 20 times a year on weekends.”

But she, Hoggarth and Steffen all make their livings pretty much on top of horses, working at ranches, Fawcett said.

She and her husband run about 1,500 cattle south of Ree Heights, about 60 miles east of Pierre.

Like Hoggarth, Steffen works for ranchers near Colome and rides and trains horses for others.

At the finals, Fawcett was riding her mare, Splash, a 14-year-old Paint/Quarter Horse. Hoggarth rode Pistol, a 14-year-old Quarter Horse mare.

With Steffens, they worked and won among 700-pound steers and heifers born about a year ago on South Dakota ranches.

In team penning, age and experience in a horse can outwit bovine yearlings, it seems.

“A lot of team penning horses are cutting horses,” Fawcett said. “They are bred to do that. They want to work cattle, want to jump back and forth with them, want to bite them. A good rodeo horse has to have a lot of cow sense.”

Native Americans' Day keeps culture alive

As students at Stanley County High School in Fort Pierre celebrated Native Americans’ Day on Monday, the rest of the nation was playing catch-up.

The South Dakota Legislature, with prompting from then-Gov. George Mickelson, in 1989 unanimously approved replacing Columbus Day with a day to honor Native Americans; it took effect the following year. It was declared the “year of reconciliation” by Mickelson.

Since then, 10 other states have gone that route, while most call it Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Six states made the switch this year.

On Monday, the Rosebud Singers from Rosebud Elementary School — led by fifth-grade teacher and drum moderator Brian Brown — pounded drums, chanted and sang as they helped Stanley County Schools mark the day.

The singers were joined by a family of dancers from Pierre. Matt Sevier, 28, his brother Max, 18, sister Samantha, 16, and Matt’s son, Xavier, 6, dressed in costumes passed down through their family, danced, swirled and stomped in circles through the Stanley County School gym. The Rosebud Singers carved their own rhythms through the air highlighting songs that have been passed down since before they had a written language.

“It keeps our culture alive,” Matt said. “It sheds light on our history, and to be able to show the rest of our community our culture so they can appreciate it like we do, so there is less ignorance.”

Samantha said, historically, “We were never able to practice our culture.”

Superintendent Daniel Hoey, in his first year overseeing the district, is the son of a high school U.S. history teacher who taught 43 years. He said the day was personal; one of his children is Santee Sioux and Hispanic.

“Those things really resonate with me,” he said.

Hoey describes summer in South Dakota learning about “where Custer got it” actually where Custer got it.

Brown, in his introductions of the singers, drummers and dancers, spoke of learning to get along with neighbors and treating them as family.

“You may not be blood related,” Brown said. “We are all related here.”

Brown wants everyone to find a balance in life. A balance between being Caucasian and being Native American.

“Meet in the middle,” Brown said. “Make the world a better place no matter where you are from, we are all still relatives.”

National movement

The slow national wave to move toward Indigenous Peoples Day includes more than 130 counties and cities, most in the last five years. Grand Forks, N.D., dumped Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day in July.

Not all of them have turned away from the man credited with the founding of the New World. Several states recognize Native Americans with a proclamation or set-aside day in September and leave October alone. Most states don’t observe anything on the second Monday of October, though Columbus Day remains a federal holiday. States and cities can recognize it or ignore it.

Being ignored is nothing new for Columbus Day. It is among 10 federal holidays each year, but many businesses and schools remain open across the country.

Native Americans’ Day isn’t gaining much more traction, at least not in central South Dakota.

There were no scheduled events in Pierre on Monday, though schools and many businesses were closed.

Around the state, there was a Native American Day Basketball Camp on Sunday in Rapid City, a Native American Day Wacipi (pow wow) in Sioux City, and a smattering of other events including a walk, a prayer and blessing, and a lecture.

Representatives for Sen. John Thune and Gov. Kristi Noem didn’t answer emailed questions about how the state’s leaders were marking the day, and instead directed a reporter to press releases from their offices talking about the contributions and importance of Native Americans.

“Native Americans’ Day is not just today,” Brown said. “Every day is for us.”

Brown’s lesson was simple and for everybody: “Be a better person tomorrow than you were today.”

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Airport manager: SkyWest 'crushing it' in Pierre market with big September

Last month was the busiest September in nearly 40 years for commercial passengers catching flights out of Pierre.

The strong numbers have led to high praise from civic leaders for SkyWest Airlines after its first six months of service at Pierre Regional Airport.

City Commissioner Jamie Huizenga has been reporting on the improved service and higher passenger numbers since Utah-based SkyWest was awarded the federally subsidized contract to fly people from Pierre to Denver earlier this year. The contract is under the federal Essential Air Service program for remote communities with few prospects for commercial air passenger service since deregulation changed the industry 40 years ago.

“SkyWest is crushing it, “ said Michael Isaacs, manager of the Pierre Regional Airport.

Isaacs said 1,809 passengers boarded flights out of Pierre in September, the highest for the month since 1982.

“It is over (two times) higher than the five-year average. Plus, no canceled flights,” he told the Capital Journal via email.

Three years ago, Pierre’s air service had become so problematic that city leaders asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to let them find a different airline. They said late and cancelled flights by Great Lakes Airlines out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, were driving passengers to larger airports.

Forays with a couple other airlines, Aerodynamics, then California Pacific, ended badly. On April 3, SkyWest touched down in Pierre with United Express’ first Bombardier CRJ200 50-passenger jet. Huizenga said the numbers have improved every month.

SkyWest is tied in with a major air carrier for its flights from Pierre to Denver, which it describes this way on its website as operating “on behalf of United Airlines, it is in a partnership with the United Express.”

It’s 13 round-trips per week to Denver — twice a day except Saturday — were shared for a time with Watertown, where the flights originated, with a stop in Pierre on the way to Denver.

The tie to Watertown was cut when the eastern South Dakota city won federal approval for a its own flights to Chicago. That made more seats available for Pierre-area passengers, Isaacs says.

Now with hunting seasons beginning to blossom, the new service is attracting hunting parties, Huizenga said last week at the City Commission meeting.

Hitting the mark

A key marker is having at least 10,000 passengers per year fly out of Pierre, a figure the airport didn’t meet for a couple of years. That could be costly because a $1 million annual federal DOT grant to the airport will be pulled if passenger numbers fall below 10,000 on a regular basis.

The big month in September helped put total passenger numbers up to 9,268 by Sept. 30, Isaacs said. The 10,000 figure was reached last week, he said.

He expects 2019’s total passengers to eclipse 14,000, which he says is “impressive, considering SkyWest started service in April.”

That would be the most since 14,686 passengers seen in 2010.

There’s still room for growth in the current schedule. With 13 weekly flights, there are 650 seats available each week. In September, with 1,809 enplanements, the daily average was 60, or 420 per week.

“The plane load factor averaged 60 percent last month so there are still seats available but not on peak days,” Isaacs said.

“There are lots of full flights though,” he said. “We’ll use that data to work on adding flights in the future.”

Switching from Watertown origination for the flights means the jets are kept in Pierre, which makes it easier to have flights ready to go in the morning, Isaacs said.

“The plane overnights in front of the terminal. No hangar. These aircraft can overnight outside without issues. There are less cold-weather problems with SkyWest CRJ-200s than with the Embraer 145s that (California Pacific) Air used.”

Three reasons why Social Security is important for women

In the 21st century, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward monthly retirement income than at any other time in our nation’s history.

Yet, on average, women face greater economic challenges than men in retirement.

ONE. Nearly 55 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women. Women generally live longer than men, while often having lower lifetime earnings. And women usually reach retirement with smaller pensions and other assets compared to men. These are three key reasons why Social Security is vitally important to women.

TWO. If you’ve worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system for at least 10 years and have earned a minimum of 40 work credits, you may be eligible for your own benefits. Once you reach age 62, you may be eligible for your own Social Security benefit whether you are married or not and whether your spouse collects Social Security or not. If you are eligible and apply for benefits on more than one work record, you generally receive the higher benefit amount.

THREE. The sooner you start planning for retirement, the better off you will be. The Social Security Administration regional public affairs office has specific information for women. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/women. Email or post this link to friends and family. The U.S. Social Security Administration office in Pierre is on the second floor of the Federal Building, 225 S. Pierre St. Room 221, Pierre, SD 57501.

Witness the oral interpretation team in action

Ashley Boone, the oral interpretation coach at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre, wants even more community involvement to encourage her students, the team and the activity.

“We would love to have you join us at a practice or at our home meet, if you’d like to learn more and to share with our community,” said Boone “The seven categories are serious reading, humorous reading, non-original oratory, poetry, storytelling, duet and readers theatre (3-6 performers). “We don’t allow photos during performances, but there is a lot of opportunity to ‘stage’ photos while we’re practicing, so parents and others can get some ‘action’ shots.”

How many years has the school had an oral interp team? “I’ll check on the exact year, but I do have a cool certificate showing Pierre as one of the first members of the National Forensics League back in the 1920s. I’m not sure if there has been a continuous active speech and debate program, but given what alumni have told me, there has been a regular team for at least the past few decades. I can look at yearbooks to confirm.”

How long have you been the advisor? “This is my sixth year. I do not have an assistant coach, but there are many community and school members who volunteer their time to help.”

What can a guest at a home meet expect to see and hear? “At the home meet on Nov. 2, any guests are invited to watch in the competition rooms. It is often just the student, a few audience members and the judge (coaches and community members.) Throughout the day, students perform their piece three times for different judges, who then compare those pieces to other performances in the same category. The day culminates with a final round of competition with the top 5-6 performers in each category. In the morning there is a lot of buzz in the hallways as students are “talking to walls” to prepare for their performances, and then everyone scatters to take over the school; we use almost 40 rooms. At the second Pierre event — the date might get changed due to scheduling conflicts — we invite the community to the theatre for about an hour and a half of our top performances in each of the seven categories.”

Has Pierre sent students to state in previous years? “Pierre is a ‘AA’ school, so with oral interp we are able to send one entry in each of the seven categories, without going to a district or regional competition — the reasoning is that a school of our size has enough internal competition. At the state festival, students are able to earn a ‘superior’ medal for their performances. As a ‘AA’ school, if we receive at least four superior awards we receive a team excellence award. Of the five times I’ve brought a team to the state festival, we’ve had a total of 18 superior awards and three team excellence awards.

Any of the current members go to state in previous years? Yes! Levi McKinley, Sarah Hancock, Jordan Morley, Ruben Bowen, Morgan Reiser and Eli Houdyshell have all performed at state.”

When did practices begin? “We started looking for pieces starting over the summer, and the first few weeks of school are a lot of just finding literature to perform. I’d say students have actually started practicing in just the past few weeks.”

What other schools will be at the two Pierre home meets? “Schools in attendance last year included: Sturgis, Stanley Country, Belle Fourche, Gregory, Lead-Deadwood, Little Wound, Lyman, Miller, Mobridge-Pollock, St. Thomas More, Sully Buttes, Winner and Wosley-Wessington. In attendance are mostly smaller schools, which is part of the reason I’ve changed up our travel schedule over the past few years so my students have the opportunity to see competition from as wide of range of performers as possible. Still, we generally have 100-120 entries each year, which is similar in size to many other competitions.

Here’s the schedule for the day, which is generally 9-5.

Registration — 9 to 9:30 a.m.

General meeting — 9:45 a.m.

Round 1 — 10 a.m.

Round 2 — 11:15 a.m.

Round 3 — 12:30 p.m.

Finals — 2:45 p.m.

Awards Assembly is as soon as the results are tabulated.

Anything else you would like to add? “Oh! So much! Although I have a background in theatre and communications, I had not heard of oral interp prior to coming to Pierre. I went to high school in Ohio, and we had mock trial. It is truly one of the coolest extra curricular activities, because students are able to hone in on their passions and select pieces they want to perform and share, all while learning how to use feedback and practice to improve themselves and creating community! When I started, there were 12-15 really committed members, and this year we’ve had 36 show interest. Probably around 30 will actually attend a meet.

What grades are each of the team members, and which ones are returning members? “We have members in all grades, and members who did not go to the latest Roosevelt meet. But here is that rundown for the ones who competed at Roosevelt: Taryn Borman — 10th returning varsity; Ruben Bowen — 11th varsity; Aidan Burke — 10th — new (novice); Addisyn Gruis — 11th varsity; Sarah Hancock — 12th varsity; Xzaria Henderson — 10th varsity: William Hodges — 11th novice; Caelyn Hutchinson — 9th novice; Ainslee Hutchinson — 10th novice; Arielle Kiepke — 11th varsity; Levi McKinley — 11th varsity: Ain Peterson — 10th varsity: Savannah Shrake — 11th varsity; Chase Uecker — 12th varsity; Jack Ferris — 11th — varsity; Jordan Morley — 11th- varsity; and Morgan Reiser — 12th varsity.