A year ago, Bernie Hunhoff, founder and editor of South Dakota Magazine, was chosen for induction into the South Dakota Hall of Fame (SDHOF) for his contributions to the area of Arts and Entertainment.
But the Yankton native has had to wait to receive the honor due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The in-person 2020 induction ceremony is being held this weekend in Oacoma along with the 2021 ceremony.
Since 1985, South Dakota Magazine has explored the state looking for interesting people and places that define South Dakota culture, heritage, arts, nature and communities, according to its website, and Hunhoff is credited with showcasing South Dakota throughout his career.
The past 18 months have proved to be a difficult year that has left its mark on the state.
“I actually thought about that the other day,” Hunhoff told the Press & Dakotan. “All through the 36-37 years we’ve been publishing South Dakota Magazine, it’s really been about trying to find stories that show the spirit and the soul of South Dakota.”
We are in changing times, he said.
“COVID has shown us that we’re vulnerable in certain ways,” Hunhoff said. “I think that the extremes of our political world right now have shown us that maybe our democracy is a little more fragile than we might have imagined a couple of years ago.”
Also, global warming has become a visible reality, he said.
“If you think it’s not, my wife and I just came from an eight-state road trip through the West, and everywhere you turned we found the ramifications of climate change,” Hunhoff said. “You can’t fish for trout in the afternoons in Montana right now because the fish are stressed from the heat and the low waters.”
On a recent trip to Washington State, Hunhoff said he learned that the glacier at Mount Rainier had receded dramatically and could possibly melt completely in the next 10-20 years.
“We drove right past the Dixie Fire (in California). Everywhere you go, you see examples of global warming,” he said. “To think that South Dakota is immune from that would be a huge error on our part.”
The times are truly unusual and rapidly changing, he noted.
“I’ve always thought South Dakota has the character and the virtues that can help us survive in times like this, but there are and will be challenges,” Hunhoff said. “If we can hold true to what I’ve found is South Dakota’s strength — coming together as a family — it could guide us through these times.”
Also, the same spirit could possibly guide other states and countries through these difficult times as well, he said.
“We could teach other states something about coming together as a one-state family, caring about each other, putting race aside and social status,” Hunhoff said. “Just put that all aside and live as one family — with disagreements — but coming together in times like this.”
A health crisis, such as the pandemic, could have brought us together, he said.
“Instead, somehow it’s divided us and that’s not a good place to be,” Hunhoff said. “It’s to our great detriment in every way. It hurt us economically, socially and health-wise that we somehow let this health crisis become a divisive thing instead of a healing thing.”
Just because politics are divided at this time, does not mean it has to be that way from now on, including in South Dakota, he said.
“This is more than just platitudes,” Hunhoff said. “A couple of years ago, South Dakota Magazine asked new residents of the state, who had come from other countries, to tell us how things are different here. We didn’t ask them to say nice things. Almost all of them expounded on how South Dakotans rally around one another in times of crisis.”
In that article, a German woman who lives in Sioux Falls said she was amazed at how — when someone in the neighborhood falls ill or has a fire — everyone just shows up with whatever is needed, even planning a fundraiser, he said.
Also, a man from Somalia said he loved how everyone in South Dakota seemed to be accepted as equal to the next, and a barber from Kenya noted how, when he started a business, everyone tried to support him and get him started, Hunhoff said.
“We’ve all witnessed that when a farmer can’t harvest his crops and everyone around shows up to help,” he said. “But to hear our new citizens from around the world all say that they noticed it — without being prompted at all — confirmed to me that we do have something special and unique that can help us through these challenging times.”
Other Yankton inductees include newscaster Tom Brokaw; Jim Abbott, former president of the University of South Dakota; and Larry Ness, chairman of the board & chief executive officer for First Dakota National Bank.