Cattlemen come to learn at Dakotafest |

Cattlemen come to learn at Dakotafest

Loretta Sorensen
for Tri-State Livestock News
Billed as “the essential ag event in the Northern Plains,” Dakotafest draws exhibitors and attendees from 16 different states, including the entire Northern Plains region. Photo courtesy Dakotafest

Dakotafest schedule

Tuesday, Aug 18, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug 19, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Thursday, Aug 20, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Since the first Dakotafest Farm Show in 1996, it has grown to include nearly 600 exhibitors, food, fun and a wealth of agricultural information and displays.

While the 2015 show scheduled for late August happens over three days, it takes three weeks and some 18-hour plus days to put it all together.

Marge and Gary Schlaffman own the farm where the show, set for Aug. 18-20 this year, takes place. They have been a big part of the action since day one.

“Marlyn Buss, who was involved with Farmfest at Crystal Lake (Minnesota) had been looking for several years for an opportunity to establish a farm show in South Dakota,” Marge says. “He wanted to hold the show in an area that would be accessible to area farmers and ranchers. That’s what brought him to Mitchell.”

After touring South Dakota to search for an ideal farm show location, Buss identified three farms he thought would work well.

“Our farm was Marlyn’s number one choice,” Marge says. “This is my family’s farm. My parents moved our family from Lake Andes to Mitchell when I was a child. When we got here, my dad realized how sandy the soil was. So much so that he couldn’t raise row crops on it. He started raising hay.”

Buss liked the fact that the Schlaffman farm was close to a main highway and the interstate. The land is flat and the farm is close to Mitchell.

When Buss approached the Schlaffman’s, they agreed to host the very first Dakotafest. Marge says they had no idea what it would take to organize the event.

“We selected a suitable location and worked to clear everything from that area,” she says. “Marlyn hired us to help prepare the site. We worked for his organization for a couple of years, helping put the show together. But it was very common to work from six in the morning till midnight to get everything ready. Then once the show is done, there’s a lot of hours spent to clean up.”

While preparing for the show proved to be too challenging for the Schlaffman’s, who still produce alfalfa on their farm, they still take part in the show each year.

“Meeting exhibitors is something we always enjoy,” Marge says. “They come from everywhere between Texas and Canada and from the east to the west coast. We always see people we know at the show. Some we only see at Dakotafest. And of course we meet new people every year, too.”

Billed as “the essential ag event in the Northern Plains,” Dakotafest draws exhibitors and attendees from 16 different states, including the entire Northern Plains region.

“One of the biggest changes in the show over the years is the number of permanent buildings on the site,” Marge says. “Initially everything was set up just for the show. Now there are at least 25 permanent buildings and four new ones were added this year.”

The American Farm Bureau owns the rights to Farmfest, Dakotafest and other events produced by Cygnus Business Media. Among them are the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show, Northern Illionois Farm Show and IDEAg Interconnevtivity Conference.

Buss has played a significant role in the development of Dakotafest. He established Minnesota’s Farmfest in 1972 and is well acquainted with the details of organizing such an event. Farmfest 1976 nearly brought an end to the event when cold, wet weather kept thousands from attending. Farmfest 1976 organizers suffered financial catastrophe due as a result. Farmfest appeared to be a thing of the past until 1982.

That was the year Buss revived Farmfest, holding it at his father’s farm north of Crystal Lake.

Farmfest 1982 was a fairly small event which Buss did not intend to hold on an annual basis. However, Farmfest was held for eight subsequent years at the Crystal Lake location. It was then moved to Austin, Minnesota, where it remained for four years.

In 1994, Buss moved Farmfest to the Gillfillan Estate in Redwood County, where it has become an annual August show. In 1997, Buss sold Farmfest and Dakotafest to Cygnus Farm Shows, who operated the events until 2013.

The 2015 Dakotafest will be held at the Schlaffman Farm, 2300 Spruce Street on the south side of Interstate 90 at Mitchell.

Admission at the gate is $10 per person. Everyone under the age of 18 is admitted free. Advance tickets can be purchased online at F