The Gestrings

University of South Dakota President Sheila Gestring winds up to toss a handful of candy as she and her husband, Keith, participate in the 2019 Dakota Days Parade in Vermillion. Most of the traditional events of Dakota Days will not occur this year because of COVID-19.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota will continue to observe the rich history of Dakota Days Oct. 2-3 but is working with the City of Vermillion to reimagine its annual celebration with public health guidelines in mind.

Most of the event’s traditional activities – such as the downtown parade, homecoming football game and student street dance – will not occur this year. Instead, the Dakota Days committee is taking the opportunity to reimagine Dakota Days in a way that will showcase Coyote pride and support local businesses in creative ways.

“For 106 years, the University of South Dakota has observed Dakota Days in some fashion,” said USD President Sheila K. Gestring. “It’s always been an important time to celebrate our heritage and Coyote pride, and we want to maintain that tradition for our students, local alumni and community members. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will reimagine the event to observe it in a responsible way that complies with public health guidelines, such as physical distancing and face coverings.”

USD is planning a handful of new virtual and physically distanced events that will emphasize school spirit, including a “Yote Yard Face-Off” competition, drive-in movie night featuring historic USD athletic games, a “Cruisin’ with the Coyotes” motorcade, virtual grand reveal of the newly renovated DakotaDome, and live social media royalty reveal and crowning of Mr. and Ms. Dakota Days.

“I’m incredibly proud of our student Dakota Days committee, which made it abundantly clear in early discussions that it wanted to focus on safe activities,” Gestring said. “Their top concern was the health and safety of the student body and the Vermillion community.”

The university and the USD Foundation is also working closely with the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company (VCDC) to support local businesses without drawing crowds to Vermillion. Based on the success of the VCDC’s “Vermillion Victory Bond” program launched in the early days of the pandemic, the USD Foundation will sponsor the sale of victory bonds to encourage community members, friends and alumni to buy gift cards for local businesses over the Dakota Days weekend.

“The pandemic has brought about unusual circumstances for everyone, and I think it’s important to recognize that all of our lives have changed and been affected,” said Nate Welch, VCDC president and CEO. “USD brings incredible value to the Vermillion community, and the way that the university supports the community and vice versa is what makes this place so special.”

USD is also hoping to host a celebration in the spring when fall athletics are scheduled to resume.

“While we know we can’t have a normal Dakota Days this fall, we are hopeful we can celebrate with a visual display of USD pride and bring more Coyotes together virtually this fall while introducing a new event this spring,” Gestring said. “We hope our community sees this as an opportunity to create another unique event in the spring to rally our community and bring our alumni home, while maintaining an aspect of Dakota Days tradition this fall.”

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