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Dakota Farm Show features nearly 300 companies

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf
agripen@live.com

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:22 PM

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VERMILLON, S.D. — Imagine 289 agricultural companies showcasing their businesses under one roof. For three days approximately 25,000 people strolled through the booths during the 30th annual Dakota Farm Show, which was held Jan. 8-10 in the Dakota Dome in Vermillion.

Midwest Shows of Austin, Minn., put on the show.

"We are bursting at the seams," said show manager Penny Swank. "Every place we can put a booth, there is one. It is a one-stop shopping mall for farmers."

Success wasn't guaranteed for founder and president John K. Riles. A friend at a radio station in Austin invited Riles to attend a radio-sponsored farm show in Austin's mall. One thing led to another and soon he was organizing a show in Sioux City, Iowa, in a mall also owned by the owner of Austin's mall.

The Siouxland Farm Show moved across the river into South Sioux City, Neb., for a few years. Again needing more space, Riles kept hearing about the Dakota Dome in Vermillon, which is just 30 minutes away.

More space should eliminate any problems, he thought, but the Fiberglass air-supported roof had its own unique complexities. Unloading trucks and setting up was slow.

On the flip side, Riles said, it probably brought farmers in to see the show. He had calls from farmers wondering if the booths and farm equipment would be inside on the floor. He wonders how many of the first-time visitors came just to get a close up look at the amazing dome.

"Attendance was good that first year," said Riles. "It wasn't so easy to get exhibitors, but once they saw the number of farmers who would attend a farm show, it didn't take long for them to realize what the Dakota Farm Show could do."

Then the hard times of the 1980s hit. Many farmers went out of business then, said Riles. The remaining farmers got bigger and purchased more land. The ag economy eventually recovered and the show grew.

"Farmers remain hardworking, looking for innovative ideas for maximum profitability and production," said Riles. "The focus of our farm shows has always been about exhibitors and farmers coming together."

Gary Pinkelman of Hartington, Neb., hasn't missed a single Dakota Farm Show as an exhibitor. Pinkelman Sales features Lester Buildings, livestock equipment, Four Season Rooms and vinyl decks. He has watched the show grow as agriculture has changed.

"There used to be lots of hog equipment, now that is not the case," said Pinkelman. "Today's equipment is phenomenal in size and technology. GPS was no where on our minds 30 years ago, now look at how common it is."

He plans to be back for the 31st Annual Dakota Show scheduled Jan. 7-9, 2014.