From wildlife and water skills to fossils and falcons, two major Yankton events this weekend will offer all things Missouri River.
The Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival and Homestead Day both run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at adjacent locations. The programs and presentations run continuously.
The events are free and family friendly. In addition, the earlier scheduling in the day will avoid the forecast intense heat of the middle and late afternoon.
The Lake Yankton festival will be held at the Training Dike west of the bubble, while Homestead Day will be located at Pierson Ranch.
The Lake Yankton festival will feature the Royal Gauntlet Birds of Prey. Master falconer Bob Aanonsen is scheduled to present the program.
“The Royal Gauntlet is really popular, and it’s great we can get them for our festival. TransCanada is sponsoring the Royal Gauntlet,” said Mary Robb with the City of Yankton.
“We have seating with bleachers for the Royal Gauntlet and picnic tables for anyone who needs a seat at either the Lake Yankton Festival or Homestead Day.”
Royal Gauntlet, an Oklahoma-based organization, consists of licensed falconers and volunteers who work with recuperating raptors. The programs generally cover the biology, ecology and conservation of the birds of prey.
The programs feature live presentations of raptors such as the owl, hawk and falcon.
“The rest of the presentations at the festival are come and go, but the Royal Gauntlet will have set show times at the training dike area,” Robb said.
The programs will start at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon, and each one will last for 45 minutes.
In addition, Aanonsen features live presentations of raptors such as the owl, hawk and falcon, Robb said.
“The Royal Gauntlet really draws a crowd, and he does a really good presentation. The show is in demand all over the country,” she said.
Aanonsen is no stranger to Yankton audiences, Robb said.
“He was here last year, and if anyone came and saw him working with the falcon, it’s totally amazing, absolutely amazing,” she said.
During one segment, Aanonsen and a partner teamed up for a demonstration. One held the falcon at the front of the crowd, while the other was standing among the audience wearing a glove with food.
“They said, ‘Hunt!’ and the bird went to the glove. The falcon was flying along in front of the people,” Robb said. “My husband was holding the glove one time, and he said it was all as light as a feather. It was amazing.”
In a similar demonstration, Aanonsen has youngsters line up in the shape of hay bales, with the falcon flying toward them.
Aanonsen’s work isn’t limited to the shows, Robb said.
“He’s a licensed falconer and rehabilitator. These birds couldn’t be released into the wild at first, but he gets them back out into the world,” she said. “There are still some who are unable to take care of themselves, and they aren’t released.”
OTHER FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
Karla Zeutenhorst, a ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has worked with organizing the Lake Yankton Outdoor Festival.
Besides the Royal Gauntlet, the festival will feature a wide variety of presenters and topics.
The programs include, river geology, a live fish tank, kids fishing clinic, playing in the water (water wheel), a seat belt convincer, a rescue truck and dive trailer, and a fatal vision water walk.
The fatal vision water walk uses goggles that give the wearer a distorted vision and difficulty in walking a straight line.
Other presentations include archery, mobile ranger station, a bow fishing mentor program, miniature golf, roll-over simulator, canoe and kayak clinic and boating and water safety.
“People have the chance to go on the water with kayaks, but you need to take precautions when you’re on the water,” Robb said.
“I just saw (a news report) where a lady drowned when she slipped out of her lifejacket. You have to make sure your lifejacket is secure and works properly.”
During the same three-hour span Saturday, visitors can take a step back in time at the Homestead Day, said Nancy Teachout with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Homestead Day will offer a variety of activities, with music by John and Susan McNeill of Springfield, Teachout said.
“Homestead Days will be welcoming back the music of the McNeills and the wonderful Dutch oven cooking of the Swansons this year. It’s been several years since they have participated,” she said.
“New additions this year will be Tom Vollmer presenting ‘Fossils at Your Feet,’ a bee program and a mining sluice where participants can try their hand at panning for gold and jewels.”
Vollmer, a Crofton, Nebraska, science teacher, provides an insight into the rich historical treasures found around Lewis and Clark Lake.
Other activities include pioneer crafts, music and games, butter making, bread making, ice cream making, quilting and candle making.
“We’re also going to have a taffy pull,” Teachout said. “People may remember doing it years ago. But others, especially children, may never have done it before.”
In addition, festival-goers can test their skill at disc golf.
Some of the demonstrations will re-enact long-lost skills and provide people with a hands-on experience in many cases, Robb said. The skills were necessary in pioneer times, but they also provided a social occasion, she said.
“The ice cream making, candle making and taffy pull were things that needed to be done (because they couldn’t be bought),” she said. “Neighbors got together and did it together. They socialized with friends.”
While most of the activities focus on pioneer skills, one presentation will go further back in time — way back, to prehistoric times.
Teachout encourages modern-day visitors to experience pioneer times.
“Come prepared to have fun the old-fashioned way,” she said. “Participate in a taffy pull, and make butter and dip your own candle.
Saturday’s visitors can enjoy the best of two different worlds, Robb said.
“The Lake Yankton Festival is about getting out and exploring opportunities. Homestead Day is more of the historical aspect of things,” she said.
“It’s going to be fun. Just be sure to bring your water jug, because it’s going to be hot.”
The sponsors for one or more of the activities include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks; National Park Service, Missouri National Recreational River; City of Yankton; Izaak Walton League of America; Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce; Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan; KYNT Radio and Keep Yankton Beautiful.
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