Summer’s here and the time is right …”
With apologies to Martha and the Vandellas, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and whoever else has sung that sentiment over the years, summer is nearly here and, for a lot of people who have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year, it’s the right time to get back to something a lot like normal.
After a 2020 filled with cancellations, everything old will feel new again this summer.
But Summer 2021 in the Yankton area will also be about a little more than a return to normal. The Huether Family Aquatics Center officially opens this weekend, and its debut take its place alongside the area festivals, music events, camping, hiking and other activities that make up summer 2021 here.
Today, we present a brief list of 10 things you really should know about this summer. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means — and it’s certainly subject to change, depending on elements ranging from the weather to the coronavirus. But it’s a broad road map to what should be a memorable summer season in our area.
AN OPENING SPLASH
After years of deliberation, design and construction, the first summer with a new pool in Yankton since 1947 is finally upon us.
Today, (Saturday) the Huether Family Aquatics Center is set to have a ribbon cutting with a season pass day set for Sunday and finally opening entirely to the public on Monday.
Fantle Memorial Park’s new aquatics goes far beyond the pool that once resided in the spot, boasting multiple water slides, a competition pool, a splash pad that can be utilized at times during the shoulder season, a lazy river and a zero-depth entry pool.
Special plans include opening the pool for limited hours during Riverboat Days weekend, a break from earlier norms that would usually see the pool closed by this time.
RIVERBOAT DAYS RETURNS
The pillar of Yankton’s summer season, Riverboat Days, will return after missing last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-day festival is set Aug. 20-22.
The final schedule for this year’s event has not been finalized, but many old favorites are expected to return, including the parade, the Riverboat Days Summer Arts Festival, the Extreme Bull-Riding event and more.
New this year is a headlining musical act, as country music star Jo Dee Messina will perform at Riverside Park on Friday Aug. 20, after the fireworks display (which will also be back, of course).
More details will be released in the near future.
A host of major events are making a return to downtown Yankton in 2021.
On Saturday, June 12, the downtown area is once again set to host Yankton Ribfest. Canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the festival will return this year with several food vendors, an amateur rib contest, a kids’ area and hours of live music. Bands this year include Kings of Oblivion, Rock Hardys, Annabelle Band and Urbandale Lane.
Another event set to be resurrected in 2021 is the 3rd on 3rd Block Party set for July 3. Last hosted in 2018, the event will feature food trucks, party games, music in more in a pre-Independence Day celebration.
The Rock ‘N’ Rumble Motorcycle Rally, which was also canceled last year due to the pandemic, will also make a return July 24 and will feature the Rock Hardys, Tom Buckmiller & the Tone Tailors and the Rude Band.
A FESTIVE MOOD
The region celebrates a number of festivals, from ethnic to entertaining. The following is a rundown of available festival dates: Fish Days, Lake Andes, June 4-6; Kolach Days, Verdigre, Neb., June 11-13; South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, Vermillion, June 17-20; Czech Days, Tabor, June 18-19; Berrypepper Days, Creighton, Neb., June 18-20; Dalesburg Midsommar Festival, June 25; Powwow, Santee Sioux Tribe, second to last weekend in June; Danish Days, Viborg, July 16-18; South Dakota Chislic Festival, Freeman, July 31; Schuetzenfest, Bow Valley, Nebraska, July 31-Aug. 1; Fort Randall Powwow, Lake Andes, held the first weekend in August; Powwow, Northern Ponca Tribe, Niobrara, Nebraska, held each August; and, to wrap up summer, the Wagner Labor Day Celebration Sept. 3-6
In addition, the region features a number of Fourth of July celebrations, county fairs and other events throughout the summer.
MUSIC IN THE AIR
The Yankton Area Arts Association will be kicking off its free weekly Summer Concert Series featuring the Yankton Area Summer Band (YASB) on June 1. YASB includes 50-100 area volunteer musicians who play with a different guest band conductor each week. Concerts are set for 8 p.m. every Tuesday in June, July and part of August at the open-air amphitheater in Yankton’s Riverside Park.
Following the YASB Concerts, Yankton Area Arts will continue its summer concert series with five pops concerts also at Riverside Amphitheatre. Celebrating with Yankton on the Fourth of July will be the Hegg Brothers, followed by Mike and Jay on July 13, the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble on July 20, students from Yankton High School’s 2020 spring production of “Xanadu! The Musical” on July 27. Completing the season will be Mogen’s Heroes on Aug. 3.
Also gearing up for summer is Music at the Meridian, another free summer concert series, held Thursdays from 5-8:30 p.m. in July and August on the lawn west of the Meridian Bridge. The event features live music, food trucks, micro brews and art. This summer’s performers include: James Dean Acoustic, Omaha Street Percussion, Humbletown Bassel & The Supernaturals, Yuya Mix and Tom Buckmiller & The Tone Tailors.
FIREWORKS ON THE FOURTH
Also set to make a return in 2021 are fireworks on the Fourth of July.
As with 2019, plans are to shoot the show from the upper deck of the Meridian Bridge.
This year’s festivities will not include a Music at the Meridian show like in 2019, but Parks & Recreation Director Todd Larson has confirmed to the Press & Dakotan that Yankton Area Arts will still be presenting music in Riverside Park ahead of the fireworks show.
RODEO DAYS ARE HERE
The dust will fly this summer as rodeos and bull riding competitions hit the region. The following are the available dates for area events: Lake Andes, McKay’s Bull-A-Rama, June 5; Irene Rodeo, June 25-26; Springfield Bull-O-Rama and Mutton Busting, July 3; Cedar County Fair Rodeo, Hartington, Neb., July 15-16; Geddes Rodeo, July 17-18; Knox County Fair Bull-A-Rama, Bloomfield, Neb., Aug. 12; Scottie Stampede Rodeo, Scotland, Aug. 14-15; Riverboat Days Extreme Bull Riding, Yankton, Aug. 21; and the Wagner Labor Day Rodeo Sept. 4-5.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
For a trip through the past, check out Yankton’s Mead Cultural and Education Center, home of the Dakota Territorial Museum. The Mead recently reopened after being closed for a year during the pandemic. This summer, the Mead will have three special exhibits on display until Aug. 31, including “Lincoln and the Dakotas,” the Linden Graber Motorcycle and Scooter Collection and “Fall In! Soldiering in South Dakota.” Summer hours begin June 5. Also, the Dakota Territorial Museum will be celebrating its 85th anniversary on June 1.
Meanwhile, though the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery remains closed to the public, the on-site aquarium along Highway 52 is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. The 10,000-gallon display space features many local species of fish, amphibians and reptiles, including an albino snapping turtle. Outdoor spaces around the hatchery and aquarium are open also open daily.
The Yankton area will be host to a number of sporting events this summer. As for tournaments, here are just a few:
• The Yankton Baseball Association will host a number of tournaments at various age levels, including the 10-team Kyle Mueller Memorial First Dakota Classic June 4-6, and the 20-team Lewis & Clark Classic June 11-13. Both tournaments will have pool play games in Crofton, Nebraska, with the Lewis & Clark tournament also having pool play games in Hartington, Nebraska and Vermillion.
• The Yankton Girls’ Softball Association will host its annual tournament on Father’s Day Weekend, June 19-20. Some games may be played on Friday, June 18.
• The Yankton Area Swim Team will host its first meet in the new pool at Memorial Park on the final weekend of June.
• The National Field Archery Association will hold its “National Roundup” July 14-18 in Yankton, including the First Dakota Classic, Outdoor National Field Championships and Outdoor National Target Championships.
HAPPY TRAILS …
If you are headed out to Lewis & Clark Lake, be sure to check out the resurfaced bike trail that parallels Highway 52 on the south side. The work was done by Yankton County thanks to a federal grant secured in 2019 that paid for 80% of the project. You will definitely notice the improvement.