South Dakota was the center of the pheasant hunting world Feb. 16-18. Pheasant Fest visited Sioux Falls over that weekend, and the event brought tens of thousands of people to the Denny Sanford PREMIERE Center.
Public relations specialist for Pheasants Forever, Jared Wiklund, said the event in Sioux Falls brought 28,868 people through the gates, making it the third largest crowd in the event's 16-year history.
"It’s kind of hard to know what to expect when you go into that kind of venue, it’s the smallest city we’ve ever been to, but when you add in our local chapters there and the really good chapters we have in that region as a whole it sets the table for success," he said.
Wiklund mentioned that there was a large group of people from Northwest Iowa and Nebraska that attended, but the majority of the group was people from South Dakota.
Sioux Falls joined the likes of Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, Milwaukee, Madison and Des Moines as host cities.
Wiklund was optimistic that the event will return to South Dakota, but he said he wasn't sure if the event will be coming out to Rapid City.
"It's hard for me to comment on that because I don’t think that’s ever been discussed, because I don’t know if there’s a convention center that would hold us within a ways of Rapid City," he said. "(Sioux Falls) had redone its convention center with the idea of trying to bring Pheasant Fest there, and we were excited to come and the build up to it was awesome, and obviously we had a great show."
The economic impact was large too. Although Wiklund said he didn't have estimates for what the impact was on Sioux Falls, he said most host cities see about a $5 million impact to the region.
"Just as pheasant hunters bring that huge economic impact to the state each fall, that's also a big part of the show," he said. "How can we help businesses, hotels, diners and other places in the cities that we go to?"
Next year the convention will be in Schaumberg, Illinois, which is just northwest of Chicago. In 2020, the convention will be back in Minneapolis.
Wiklund said he wouldn't rule out returning to Sioux Falls after that, but said he doesn't expect the organization to ignore western South Dakota.
"We’ll definitely be back in South Dakota, with it being our third largest show, there’s no reason we wouldn’t bring it back," he said. "When we talk about pheasants in the state, when you look at the pheasant range, it’s actually shifted quite a bit west. When you look at our organization, we’re working on a lot of saline soils solutions and moving our impact a little bit west.
"Maybe not through Pheasant Fest, but through our local chapters we’re going to be engaging with a lot more people West River, including people in the Rapid City area."