S.D. State Fairgrounds, consistently improving


It has not been difficult to keep track of the continuing work taking place on the Dakota Event CompleX – what we all call the “DEX” as it has grown from a bare patch of lumpy earth into what is nearly an enclosed building.

The DEX, however, is but a portion — granted a large portion — of what is taking place on the S.D. State Fairgrounds, as it prepares to host this year’s fall classic, beginning Aug. 31.

Peggy Besch, the manager of the fair, and the fairgrounds, took some time earlier this month to outline a few of the ‘behind the scenes’ improvements taking place, or planned before fairgoers begin streaming onto the grounds.

“We have a lot of different projects going on right now, or set to begin when the ground thaws,” Besch said. “Two of the largest projects are infrastructure, which most people won’t ever see, but which will benefit the fairgrounds for years and years.”

First up is a new water line, which is being connected to a water main on Nevada Ave., on the east side of the fairgrounds. The four-inch line is being replaced with one that is six-inches, mostly to make sure that the east side of the fairgrounds – and the DEX in particular – has a sufficient water supply for the expected increased demand and to make sure the fire suppression sprinklers in the new building are fed.

The other major infrastructure improvement involves a new sewer line, on Recreation Ave., a north-south passage through the heart of the fairgrounds. For perspective, the line will run between the Women’s Building and the Horticulture Building, connecting with the large city sewer line on Third Street.

“We hope to have the sewer line project started immediately following this year’s fair,” Besch noted.

The Women’s Building has seen and will continue to see improvements, both inside and out.

“Last year the building got a complete electrical updating,” Besch said. “New panels, new lights and such. This year, we chose a new color palette and are almost finished with the repainting. We continue to have people interested in renting the building for functions and this upgrade will make it better for people with events and the state fair as well.”

“We are having new bathrooms built in the Tech Center as we speak, which will allow it to become ADA accessible.” Besch said. “There is also a name change coming in the future on the Tech Center/Family Living Center, but that won’t take place before this year’s fair.”

There is a new roof going up over the Farm Bureau/Dakotaland Stage, on Third Street and Livestock Ave., where, among other events, the Miss State Fair competition is held each year.

Some smaller, mostly cosmetic projects remain on the state fair grandstand, which saw a major renovation in 2018, for its 100th birthday. “We still want to address the facade and the concessions area,” Besch said.

Also in the ‘very early discussion and planning’ stage are potential upgrades to campgrounds. During the fair, there are nearly 2,000 camping spaces available.

And then there is the DEX.

The new building became necessary when the Beef Complex was consumed by fire in 2020.

Fundraising took place and, with the funds from insurance and from the state, plans were drawn for the 200,000 square foot center, which features two indoor performance rings for events, and will house all cattle during the state fair.

Affected by a combination of a worldwide pandemic, altered supply lines and an increase of materials across the board, the project was scaled back by 50,000 square feet and extra capitol was approved during this year’s legislative session.

“It’s going to be quite impressive in the end,” said Besch as we toured the exterior of the building.

“We just had a contractor meeting and we lost about a month due to weather over the winter. But they are fairly certain that the building will be completed on time, but we can’t afford to lose any more days. Our general contractor, Henry Carlson Contracting, has been a joy to work with, along with a tremendous list of sub contractors.” Read the whole story at the Huron Plainsman.