Well, it could be said we now have a somewhat better idea of what Riverboat Days means to Yankton’s economy.

During Monday night’s Yankton City Commission meeting, City Manager Amy Leon discussed the September tax revenue report, which in fact roughly covered mid-August through mid-September. This would have been the period in which Riverboat Days would have happened had it not beeen canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it came as no surprise that Yankton saw a drop in revenue — to the tune of 4.85% — over the same time period from last year. The drop was the first monthly decline in that category since early summer. The city’s BBB tax revenue was also down a hefty 9.8%.

Still, this points to what has been one of the most intriguing and encouraging sidebars (at least, so far) of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yankton’s revenue picture, which one might have figured would be a complete disaster during the pandemic, has actually held up very well. In fact, July was the first time the city has ever reaped more than $1 million in monthly revenue.

As we’ve written here before, this surprising vitality may be due to more people shopping locally rather than take trips to other cities in the middle of a pandemic. Also, the city seemed to be drawing in more people from the lake area this summer, which is a REALLY encouraging sign.

For whatever reasons, it has helped Yankton run more than 2% ahead of last year for revenue, which truly seemed like an unlikely development when this pandemic began and businesses hunkered down to cope with the viral unknown.

However, there was a limit to what the “new normal” could generate, meaning there was no way the increased local shopping could make up for the loss of Riverboat Days, which annually draws more than 100,000 people to town and stands as the biggest summer event in this community. The festival has matured into a robust economic component, and its absence was keenly felt last month. (Also, without the boost in local shopping, who knows what the damage might have been?)

“This doesn’t surprise us because of Riverboat Days not occurring this year,” Leon told the city commissioners Monday night. “In fact, we were a little surprised it wasn’t worse than it was.”

Also, this might hint that Yankton could still look forward to a decent autumn and then possibly a solid holiday shopping season, despite the pandemic. There are certainly no guarantees along that line and a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the year. But the local economy’s overall performance trend in this time of COVID is at least somewhat promising.

Despite the expected downturn in revenues in September, Yankton’s economic foundation appears fairly solid at this point, and there is reason to hope that the year can end on a strong note that can serve as a great boost heading into 2021.


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