At Yankton festivals next month, you can find something to float your boat — or watch it sink.
You can also discover prehistoric fossils, marvel at birds of prey, pan for gold or witness a search-and-rescue team use an underwater camera.
All of those activities and more are free at the Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival and Homestead Day, set for June 8 at the respective training dike and Pierson Ranch.
The two festivals run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by the cardboard boat regatta at Lake Yankton. The 1 p.m. regatta — known to leave some entrants with a sinking feeling — is returning to the schedule after a one-year absence.
All events are free, although the Homestead Day at Pierson Ranch requires a park entrance fee, according to Nancy Teachout, head naturalist with the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area.
However, the first 100 guests at Homestead Day will be admitted free without needing a park sticker, she added.
“The two festivals run near each other, at the same time, so you can take in all the activities,” she said. “It’s going to be a fun outing, followed by the cardboard boat regatta. We’re encouraging families to pack a picnic lunch, enjoy the park and then spend time boating or on the beach.”
Homestead Day has been sponsored for a number of years by the Lewis and Clark Rec Area as a regular part of its programming and outreach, Teachout said. Activities are located near the bike trails, providing easy access for those who prefer that mode of travel, she added.
The Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival will see the return of special “guests,” according to Mary Robb with the City of Yankton. The Raptors Keep — formerly known as the Royal Gauntlet birds of prey — will present programs at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.
“The birds are from Oklahoma, and you can view them the entire time of the festival. There are birds you can’t release into the wild, like the one that was ‘imprinted’ from birth by people,” she said.
“The falconer has a bird where you can get up close and personal. One bird was hit by a car and is now rejuvenated. (The falconer) has tried to release the bird every year for the past 10 years. The bird doesn’t leave, but it does its own hunting and eats what it hunts.”
In addition, Sam Stukel with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will return with his reptile collection that includes snakes, lizards and turtles. He also shows frogs and toads, and he has a live fish tank.
Most activities at the Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival and Homestead Day run continuously through the three-hour period, so visitors can come and go at their leisure, according Paul Lepisto with the Izaak Walton League of America.
“We’re encouraging people to spend time at both festivals. They can move back and forth between them,” he said. “The Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival will be held at the training dike, and there’s no entrance fee.”
A dozen businesses and organizations are sponsoring the Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival. The Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River (FOMNRR) is sponsoring the cardboard boat regatta.
“We’re bringing back the boat races this year because of popular demand,” Teachout said.
The Friends organization will serve as the regatta judges and time keepers, Robb said. Regatta entrants must pre-register by June 5.
“You can pre-register and pick up the rules at the National Park Service (MNRR) headquarters in Yankton,” she said. “You have to follow the rules, and the boats can’t be wooden — they have to be cardboard.”
Registration can also be completed online.
While the regatta has rules, it doesn’t mean entries can’t be a bit unusual, Robb said.
However, all entries need to keep one thing in mind, Robb said. “You have to figure out a way that your boat doesn’t sink,” she said with a laugh.
But even the “losers” can be winners, Lepisto explained.
“We have three categories, with cash prizes of $100 and $50 for first and second places,” he said. “We have prizes for the fastest vessel; the ‘pride of the fleet,’ that looks the best; and the ‘Titanic vessel’ for the ones that sink and don’t make it.”
Homestead Days will offer a mix of old and new, Teachout said.
The programs include the mining sluice, bee program, butter making, bread making, ice cream making, quilting, taffy pulling, pioneer crafts, Dutch oven cooking, music and games, and calf roping.
In addition, the event features a Mead Cultural Center historical presentation and a “Fossils At Your Feet” demonstration by retired Crofton, Nebraska, teacher Tom Vollmer.
“We’re trying to keep with the tradition of Pierson Ranch when it was a working cattle ranch, so we’re going to have a calf roping demonstration and the opportunity for participants to rope a cow,” Teachout said.
However, don’t expect to see any live cattle, she said.
“We actually have roping dummies. It’ll be a simulation, like a calf head on a saw board. People really enjoy that opportunity to learn something and take a try at it,” she said.
“All of Homestead Day is very hands-on. You make butter and enjoy it with freshly baked bread, and we have a working beehive. We also have quilters who will give us a quick education about barn quilts and the significance of quilting.”
At one station, visitors can try their hand at a mining sluice, using a screen with rushing water to sift the sand from the “gold” (colored rocks).
In addition, area musician Jan Schiferl of Fordyce, Nebraska, will perform her original music that she is currently recording.
LAKE YANKTON OUTDOOR FESTIVAL
The Lake Yankton event focuses on fun and educational outdoor activities. Besides those previously mentioned, activities include a kids fishing clinic, playing in the water, a water wheel, miniature golf, disc golf, a canoe and kayaking clinic and boating and water safety.
During the festival, James Dean will provide live music for visitors. Another place, youngsters can create pictures and sign a drawing will.
The Outdoor Campus from Sioux Falls is bringing its archery exhibit allowing visitors to try their hand — and bow — at 3-D targets such as deer, raccoons and turkeys.
Also, the Yankton County Search and Rescue Unit will demonstrate its underwater camera, while the National Park Service will offer a tour of its Mobile Ranger Station.
Some exhibits provide safety reminders, such as the seatbelt convincer, Robb said.
“At another place, the South Dakota Highway Patrol will let you use fatal vision goggles, that replicate if you’re intoxicated,” she said. “You put on these goggles, and you don’t know where you’re going.”
Wherever you go, expect to find something fun and interesting, Teachout said. “There is something for all ages,” she said.
Robb agreed. “It’s going to be a blast,” she said.
Sponsors include: Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, NPS Missouri National Recreational River, City of Yankton, Izaak Walton League of America, Yankton Convention and Visitors Bureau, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, KYNT Radio, Keep Yankton Beautiful, Royal Sports.
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