Thanksgiving week is always a disjointed time at this newspaper. Between early deadlines and not really knowing who’s going to be around (either on staff or in the community), we must plan far ahead and be ready to adjust quickly to anything that does pop up. It’s a week of odds and ends that we string together as best we can.
Today, let me touch on a few of those odds and ends I’ve been dealing with recently.
• I was saddened to hear of the death of Sister Jacquelyn Ernster last weekend. She was a formidable figure for Sacred Heart Monastery, for Mount Marty (where she was the last Benedictine president before the school went to secular leadership) and for the Yankton community.
Beyond her considerable resume (which we’ll address more in Saturday’s Press & Dakotan), I’ll always remember Ernster for a comment she made for a story I wrote on her many years ago: “You can’t let your job define who you are.”
I found that ironic coming from someone who had committed her life to being what we commonly refer to as a nun.
But I’ve come to realize that, perhaps, she worked tirelessly to define her job, not vice versa. By serving as Mount Marty president and Sacred Heart Monastery prioress, as well as impacting lives through her many endeavors, she lived up to her own words.
• I heard about Ernster’s death from current Mount Marty President Dr. Marc Long at an appreciation dinner held Sunday night at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center. The event was a gesture of thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors who made the three world archery events held here this past September a success.
It was also a celebration of what Yankton has become in the sport of archery: a premier venue. With the biggest indoor archery facility in the world and spacious outdoor grounds, it’s easy to see why. But one needs to acknowledge not only the organizational prowess and sheer will of Bruce Cull but also that army of volunteers, sponsors and staff to truly understand Yankton’s place in the archery universe. Sunday was proof of that.
• Yankton’s annual Community Feast on Thanksgiving eve remains one of the great highlights of the year for this town. It returned in style Wednesday night.
This brought to mind last year, when the feast was canceled due to COVID-19. To fill some of that void, the staff at JoDeans offered takeout dinners for people to drive by and pick up on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. It was a nice gesture that drew many people out to that parking lot.
Nevertheless, it lacked the one thing the Community Feast has in spades: community. Not just people showing up, but people gathering and bonding. As I was reminded Wednesday, it’s that feeling of community — among both attendees and volunteers — that makes the feast such a hit.
• One reason we plan ahead for Thanksgiving week at the newspaper is because, as a rule, very little happens at this time as many people take all or part of the week off.
This year was different. Besides the archery event Sunday and the Community Feast Wednesday, there was also a press conference held at Mount Marty early Wednesday evening, plus the P&D sports department had to deal with the Summit League volleyball tournament in Vermillion that started on Thanksgiving Day. (As I check the field, this would account for the Oral Roberts team bus I saw motoring down Broadway in Yankton early Wednesday night.) I don’t recall the last time there was ever a local sporting event on Thanksgiving, although I know Yankton College used to play football games on the holiday very long ago.
• Sports must also handle the University of South Dakota’s football playoff game Saturday in the DakotaDome. It’s the first home postseason game for the Coyotes since 1986.
More than that, it marks a terrific turnaround for Bob Nielson’s club after a poor spring season cut short by COVID. The program’s momentum is clearly headed the right way now.
• Alas, casting a shadow over all this is the COVID-19 pandemic that will not go away.
Thanksgiving week 2020 was one of the darkest times in this area as we dealt with the height of a deadly fall surge.
While this year feels different, numbers have been climbing lately as more activities have moved indoors. I very much noticed Tuesday that Hutchinson County had its biggest one-day COVID rise in exactly 364 days, posting at least 16 new cases for the first time since Nov. 24, 2020. Yeah, that brought back a memory or two ...
Caution is still needed, even though we seem to be in a better place this year overall compared to last Thanksgiving due to the vaccines and now the boosters. Today, we are armed. For that, at least, we have another thing to be thankful for on this predictably unpredictable week.
Follow @kelly_hertz on Twitter.