In this Aug. 29, 2013 photo, Earl Giedd patrols the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron. Giedd has worked security at the State Fair every year since 1971 but one. The 73-year-old Mitchell man had learned earlier in the month that he had prostate cancer and that he needed surgery and, if he was lucky, follow-up treatment that would prolong his life. AP PHOTO/ARGUS LEADER, JAY PICKTHORN
HURON (AP) — In April, Earl Giedd feared he’d never walk the grounds at the South Dakota State Fair again.
The 73-year-old Mitchell man had learned earlier in the month that he had prostate cancer and that he needed surgery and, if he was lucky, follow-up treatment that would prolong his life.
Giedd has worked security at the State Fair every year since 1971 but one. He didn’t think it was possible that, even with the best results, he’d be up to it again by August.
But guess who’s wearing a gray T-shirt with the word “security” printed in bold black lettering at this year’s fair?
Yep, it’s Giedd. And if the five days of the State Fair turns the fairgrounds into a temporary community, then Giedd is the man acting as its mayor.
“He’s the grandfather of our group, the patriarch,” said Tom Fridley, the State Fair’s security chief. In everyday life, Fridley is the Sanborn County sheriff. He has the second-longest tenure of the security staff after Giedd; Fridley started in 1983.
On the State Fair’s first day, Giedd was honored as this year’s recipient of the Bob Duxbury Award for being a “Dedicated Friend of the Fair,” the Argus Leader reported.
For Giedd, it started when he was a police officer in Mitchell. It’s a long tradition that law enforcement officers provide the State Fair’s security.
“Years ago, years ago, a good friend of mine that was a state trooper come to me one day at the police department,” Giedd said. “He said, ‘How would you like a job working the fair?’ and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I meet the qualifications,’ and he said, ‘I’ll get you the job.’ He did, and I’m still here.”
The only year Giedd hasn’t worked at the State Fair was when outside security was hired, he said. Otherwise, the fair depends on law enforcement officers who take vacation time to help or who are retired or can be trusted with the responsibilities.
He has been called into service to handle almost everything, said Giedd, who has been the day-shift supervisor for decades.
“When you get thousands of people on the grounds, you’ve got everything from lost children to medical issues, disturbances, just regular routine police work,” he said. “Fortunately, nothing real major, but it’s still important.”
Giedd, who was raised near Tyndall, became a police officer in part because of his experience in a military police unit as a young man. Mostly, however, it was because a respected uncle had pursued the same path.
His career started in Lake Andes, then he moved to Corsica before spending a little more than 20 years with the Mitchell Police Department. He retired but was lured back to work by Lyle Swenson, who at the time was the Davison County sheriff.
“Old Lyle and I have been friends for many, many years,” Giedd said. “I leisured life for about a year ... then (Swenson) said he couldn’t retire, so I couldn’t, so I went to work for him.”
Giedd retired again after 12 more years in law enforcement.
He learned of his prostate cancer in April after visiting a doctor for a routine physical. Two weeks after the diagnosis, he underwent a four-hour surgery. Giedd gives all the credit for his recovery to his physician, Dr. Darlys Hofer of Urology Associates.
“To be real honest with you, when they said I had cancer, I figured that was it,” Giedd said, his gruff voice quavering a bit. “Then I got to feeling better, and I thought, yep, by golly, I’m going to make it.”
His hopes wavered again in July when he developed a hernia and needed another surgery. But after taking it easy for a while, Giedd said, he called Fridley to tell his old friend he’d see him at the fair.
“We talked a lot on the phone, before, during, after,” Fridley said. “He gave me a call and said, I’ll tell you what they find when they finish, whether I get to work with you.”
By the way, the South Dakota State Fair got itself a bargain when it was decided to give Giedd the Duxbury award, which includes a lifetime gate pass to future fairs. It needn’t worry about losing money on future free admissions because Giedd has no intentions of retiring any time soon.
“I’ll be here next year,” he said.For the complete article see the 09-08-2013 issue.
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