Overall, Yankton had a pretty good last week. It started (and ended) with some much-needed rain, and it also featured a revamped, rousing Ribfest that drew approximately 15,000 Saturday.
But perhaps the biggest news occurred at mid-week, when it was announced that Yankton had won the bid to host the 2015 World Youth Championships. It was the capping of a successful two-year process that will represent the biggest undertaking of this kind that this community — and perhaps South Dakota — has ever seen.
More than that, the event will showcase Yankton and South Dakota to the world.
For years, Yankton’s stature in archery circles has been growing immensely, thanks in large part to the efforts of Bruce Cull, who has lured the National Field Archery Association to town and has turned the sport of archery here from a mostly unorganized recreation to a very organized and high-profile activity. This has led to national and international tournaments to come to Yankton — one of each is scheduled here later this summer — bringing with them people and dollars. Archery has become a key component to Yankton’s tourism base.
But the World Youth Championships are a step up to the next level. It will draw an estimated 600 competitors from 60 countries, and the number of coaches, related personnel and fans could double that. Additionally, the biannual event is often viewed by nearly 1 billion people watching on television and the Internet.
That puts Yankton in a great position — and on the hot spot.
Local organizers now have to work out the logistics of not only housing those visitors here — Mount Marty College will be utilizing its dorm space to assist, for example — but just how to get them here from regional airports. Those organizers will be working with people in Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Omaha, Nebraska, to make that process as smooth as possible.
Other activities and details will have to be figured out, as well.
“This puts Yankton on a whole other level,” said Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carmen Schramm. “This is way beyond anything we’ve ever done before. It’s going to take a great deal of coordination just to get the community prepared for this event. We need to get our business community ready to deal with international visitors. We get those visitors now, but we have to be ready for the scale they will be in the community. It’s going to be a huge opportunity for us.”
Former Yankton mayor Nancy Wenande, who was introduced last week as the tournament’s event manager, added: “We want to make sure everybody understands this is not just about Yankton. It’s about the entire state.”
The tournament is set for a year from now — June 8-14, 2015, to be exact — meaning Yankton organizers (as well as state officials) have that one year to make and finalize myriad plans. There should be little doubt that they are up to the task.
And Yankton itself needs to get ready. This is a major “get” for this market, and it’s a call to put our best foot forward.