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South Dakota’s full congressional delegation has committed to attending Dakotafest.

On Monday afternoon, Samantha Castro, marketing manager for IDEAg Group, the organization responsible for Dakotafest, received confirmation that Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem will participate in a panel at the farm show.

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Agweek

On Monday afternoon, Samantha Castro, marketing manager for IDEAg Group, the organization responsible for Dakotafest, received confirmation that Sen. John Thune, Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem will participate in a panel at the farm show.

The congressional panel will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 17, the second day of Dakotafest, scheduled for Aug. 16 to 18 at Schlaffman Farm on the southeast edge of Mitchell.

Thune, Rounds and Noem will be discussing various agriculture issues that impact South Dakota.

“I think it’s really good for the South Dakota community to at least be able to check in with their representatives,” Castro said. “This is one really good time to be right in front of them, ask the questions you have and get those questions answered.”

For now, the panel will have to satisfy the attendees’ desire for political discourse, as no debates have yet been scheduled, despite Thune and Noem facing opposition in a presidential election year.

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Thune, a Republican, is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate but will have to defeat Democratic challenger Jay Williams. In June, Williams expressed interest in a debate with Thune at Dakotafest, but Castro said she is not aware of any contact from Williams to IDEAg Group.

Noem, a Republican and South Dakota’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is seeking her fourth term in Congress and is facing Democrat Paula Hawks in November’s election. Castro said there were no plans for a Noem-Hawks debate, either.

“Kristi will be on the panel on Wednesday. At this point, that is the only appearance we will see from her,” Castro said.

More political sessions may yet be scheduled. Castro said she would expect only one or two to take place throughout the three-day event, but if she can get one every day, “that’s even better.”

The panel is expected to last about an hour and will take place inside the new Dakotafest Education Center, one of three permanent structures being constructed on the grounds as part of the Reaves Innovation and Technology Campus.

The education center will feature a stage and seating for 250 people.

The other buildings on the campus are the Reaves Building Display Area, where Reaves Buildings - which donated the structures, Castro said - will showcase its work and services, and the Dakotafest Exhibits and Innovation Center, which will have room for 15 exhibit spaces for innovative companies that participate in the show.

The campus sits on the north side of the grounds, just off Interstate 90, Castro said, so the new structures will be visible from the road and from anywhere on the show grounds.

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While the campus is not yet complete, Castro said construction will be over before Dakotafest begins.

Other education events will include sessions on general farm safety principles by American Family Insurance - presenting sponsor of the Dakotafest Education Center - and a potential session focusing on wildlife habitat with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Castro said the show organizers are also hoping to get South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers as a speaker, but the plan has not yet been finalized.

“I am crossing my fingers that it is done by the end of this week,” Castro said.

About three sessions per day have been scheduled in the education center so far for the show.

While the new buildings provide spaces for activities and exhibits, they won’t be much help if the 2016 show sees a repeat of last year, when heavy rains caused the organizers to cancel Dakotafest’s first day.

The structures won’t be able to hold 30,000 attendees, Castro said, so if weather is an issue, IDEAg will likely follow the same protocol.

“We’re an outdoor show, so there’s only so much control we can have,” Castro said. “Whether it’s a full day or part of the day, we have to think of the safety of our attendees and our exhibitors first.”

Related Topics: SOUTH DAKOTA
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