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1912 State Fair film brought to life in SDPB documentary

Modified: Friday, Feb 1st, 2013


A picture of a couple in an early automobile includes a sign that says “Seeing the 1910 State Fair.” And next is a picture of the 1918 grandstand on the S.D. State Fairgrounds. These images are featured in the South Dakota Public Broadcasting documentary “Images of the Past: The South Dakota State Fair,” which airs Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SOUTH DAKOTA PUBLIC BROADCASTING


HURON — A rare piece of Huron’s history has been fully restored and will be featured on South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) for the first time on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m.

“Images of the Past: The South Dakota State Fair,” is a 30-minute documentary, featuring 17 minutes of a black-and-white silent film featuring the 1912 State Fair. The documentary also reveals how the historic film was discovered and takes a look at the same locations on the Fairgrounds a century later.

S.D. State Fair Manager Jerome Hertel says the film will give people the rare opportunity to see exactly how things have changed on the fairgrounds in the past 100 years. “But while there have been many changes, the Fair has the same agricultural roots it had since the beginning,” he said.

South Dakota’s first State Fair was held Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, 1885 in Huron. For the next 20 years, the fair’s location was traded between Huron, Mitchell, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Yankton. In 1905, Huron was officially named the permanent home of the South Dakota State Fair.

The film, which was provided by the South Dakota State Historical Society, was fully restored from a 16 mm format. South Dakota State Historical Society archivist Matthew Reitzel said it was first shot on 35 mm nitrate film. “At some point, the 35 mm film was converted to 16 mm, probably in the early 1950s. We had conservation work done on the 16 mm film and had it converted to a digital format.”

Longtime Huron resident Leanne Gutormson is featured in the documentary reminiscing of the main attractions of the State Fair in the 1930s and 40s.

“I was raised just two blocks from the fairgrounds, so I grew up knowing it and saw the different changes,” said Gutormson.

She remembers when the State Fair had sulky cart racing and chuck wagon races. The chuck wagons were historically used to carry food and cooking equipment on the prairie as part of a wagon train or for cowboys during a cattle drive.

“During those races, the wagons would start the race, then had only a few minutes to unpack all of their supplies and utensils, set them up, then pack it up again and finish the race,” she said.

Gutormson also recalled the grandstand entertainment acts being much different from those today. “I remember seeing the Ziegfeld Follies. They had beautiful clothes with huge headdresses, like what you would see now on showgirls of Las Vegas,” she said. “One year, they set up a great big glass swimming pool on the grandstand and swam in the water and did synchronized swimming.”

Everyone wore their Sunday best out to the fairgrounds. “This was a big deal and everyone wore their best clothes,” she said. “From the men wearing their nicest suits to all the ladies wearing hats and gloves and their finest dresses.”

SDPB producer Brian Gevik provides narration for the half-hour documentary. “The film takes us back a century, to a time when people dressed up for the Fair and our agricultural roots were a far larger part of South Dakota life,” said Gevik. The program also will become part of SDPB Online’s educational resources with suggested discussion topics and activities for classroom use at SDPB.org/Edu. If you can’t catch it on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m., the documentary will also air on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. and at 10 p.m.

For the complete article see the 01-31-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-31-2013 paper.


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