As cooler temperatures and a pleasant breeze signal the arrival of fall, students of the University at South Dakota approach a much-anticipated time of the year: Dakota Days.
Dakota Days is USD’s annual homecoming celebration, the longest standing tradition at the university. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the USD, an addition to the usual pomp and extravagance of regular Dakota Days celebrations.
This year’s festivities will consist of multiple events organized by the student-led Dakota Days Planning Committee, including an appearance by comedian Anthony Jeselnik, the coronation of Mr. and Miss Dakota, and the 98th annual Dakota Days parade. Grand Marshals Tom and Meredith Brokaw will lead the parade train down Main Street the morning of Oct. 6 prior to the Coyote football game in the DakotaDome at 2 p.m.
While most of USD’s upper classes have participated in the annual festivities during their time as students, a large number of students have yet to experience Dakota Days.First-year Spencer Smith said he is unfamiliar with the celebration.
“I don’t know a whole lot about it. I know there are a lot of parties but I don’t know much outside of that,”
First-year Katie Klaassen said she knows why USD celebrates Dakota Days every year.
“Dakota Days is the homecoming week for USD. I know there is a parade during the week. I’ve also heard there is an abundance of parties,” Klaassen said.
“I’ve heard it’s a drunk fest,” first-year student Alexis Neugebaur said. “I’m looking forward to seeing people go to class hungover or drunk.”
Until they experience the week for themselves, many newcomers like Smith, Klaassen and Neugebaur wonder what Dakota Days is and how to take in the experience.Dakota Days Planning Committee member senior Courtney Krcil said Dakota Days is a longstanding tradition that commemorates USD as a whole.
“We have Dakota Days for the same reason as any other school has homecoming,” Krcil said. “It’s a celebration of the school, it boosts student morale and it’s a celebration of what USD was, is and will be.”
Fellow Planning Committee member Darcy Leischner said the week creates a sense of campus pride and unity.
“Dakota Days means bringing the alumni back together, and seeing where the university is going,” Leischner said. “An example of this is when you see the two people who met at USD, got married and come back to Dakota Days every year. It’s the sense of joy and pride they have toward USD that we try build in our students here during the week.”
During the week of Dakota Days, both Krcil and Leischner said there is a different atmosphere around campus. “It’s definitely not your high school homecoming since we have such a large campus. There’s a different kind of feel within the students and the classrooms — you can tell it’s Dakota Days,” Krcil said.
“There’s energy around campus. People are in the MUC, they are wearing red and they are talking about what it means to be a Coyote. People are electrified during the week,” Leischner said.
Krcil urged new students to take in the full experience of Dakota Days.
“It might be slightly intimidating for freshmen with everything going on, but I would recommend they take the initiative to go to the events because then they can truly see everything that is going on,” Krcil said.
Leischner said D-Days promotes relationships between the student body and the community of Vermillion.
“Maybe that freshman that has never been to Main Street will go to Main Street and see the parade and see all the wonderful businesses that are downtown,” Leischner said. “Not only that but they also will see the people in the community coming to the parade and participating in it.