We're a week into meteorological fall, and there are plenty of reminders of what I think of as "South Dakota Fall": crisp air, bonfires, sweatshirts, Friday high school football and Saturday college football, and homecoming parades.
I took the quick ride down to Madison this morning to enjoy that last-listed facet of South Dakota Fall, taking in the DSU Trojan Days Parade with my dad. I got to chat with a few Madville Times loyalists (after introducing myself as the new guy on the blog) and noted that, while we're still a year away from a fall election, there was campaigning afoot on Egan Avenue.
DSU's parade drew the attention of two of the four declared Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. I saw a sleek black sedan sporting the campaign logo for State Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) driving around town, and the candidate himself was shaking hands along the boulevard in the parade, accompanied by a truck and a crew of supporters. State Representative Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton), who would, I believe, be harder to miss than Rhoden, didn't appear to be at the parade in person, but an eager supporter made sure to get a "Nelson U.S. Senate" pen in my hand and the hands of nearly every nearby spectator. The other half of the quartet of Republican Senate hopefuls was nowhere to be seen, either in person or by proxy (maybe Smilin' Mike is confident enough to think he can sit out a parade opportunity, but c'mon, Annette! Let's see some in-person campaign hustle!!).
Rick Weiland, as one might expect, was highly visible in a literal homecoming (not that he's been away that long). In addition to a stop for photos with family (full disclosure: the chunk of boulevard in front of Weiland Funeral Chapel is the traditional Uecker vantage point for the parade, both for the opportunity of good conversation—this year with business owners Ted and Kathy as well as with visiting Weiland brother Ken—and for the hospitality of a coffee warm-up while awaiting the parade's start), Rick shook hands and chatted all along the parade route and reminded Madison-ites of his campaign raison d'être to "Take it back!"
The parade also provided supporters of the statewide effort to put a minimum wage hike on the 2014 ballot a chance to keep collecting those signatures! I talked to one signature gatherer; no stickers and slogans like the candidates, but good policy points about the importance of helping out our lowest-paid workers by setting a minimum wage that's closer to a living wage.
The only real decision for the campaigns this weekend was whether to get out and work the parade route or sit back and enjoy some cider. Next Saturday offers active campaigners a whole bunch of options, with four of the state's six state universities hosting homecoming parades:
- Gypsy Day Parade, 9 a.m. CDT, NSU, Aberdeen
- Hobo Day Parade, 9:30 a.m. CDT, SDSU, Brookings
- Dakota Days Parade, 10 a.m. CDT, USD, Vermillion
- Swarm Week Parade, 10 a.m. MDT, BHSU, Spearfish
Which fall parade tradition will draw which candidate(s)? Which event should candidates make sure not to pass up? How should campaigns try to spread their message, while accepting that their candidate can really only choose one in-person visit? All good questions. With this much going on and spread so broadly across the state, the only truly bad answer from a campaign perspective would seem to be "none of the above."
Correction/Update 19:50 CDT: Commenter TG catches my faulty vehicle memory to point out the Rhoden-logo-decked sedan wasn't actually in the parade and helps confirm for me that it was indeed Larry himself I saw walking the parade route. I've corrected the article above to reflect those clarifications.