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South Dakota food heritage is theme for annual history conference

South Dakota food heritage is theme for annual history conference

Editor’s Note: This rattlesnake sandwich stand from the 1950s was found in western South Dakota. (Photo courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives)

South Dakota food traditions will be the focus of this year’s history conference hosted by the South Dakota State Historical Society. The conference is April 29-30 at the Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center in Pierre.

The theme of the conference is “Everyone Eats: South Dakota’s Food Heritage.”

“We will be examining the way we value and appreciate our local, regional and national foodways, and what those traditions say about us,” said Jay Smith, director of the museum of the State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre and conference organizer.

“Whether sitting down to a family dinner, slicing into fruit kuchen or grilling fresh-caught walleye by the river, it is certain that everyone eats!” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society. “This conference is a great opportunity to come and learn about South Dakota’s food traditions and practices.”

The conference moderator will be Dr. Brad Tennant, professor of history at Presentation College in Aberdeen and president of the board of trustees of the State Historical Society.

Friday’s keynote speaker is Susan Evans McClure, director of Smithsonian Food History Programs at the National Museum of American History, discussing “Food at the Nation’s History Museum.” McClure oversees the creation, planning and production of programs that explore the complexity of American history through our experiences with food and agriculture.

Other Friday speakers include Ken Stewart with the State Historical Society-Archives talking about breweries in South Dakota, South Dakota Magazine editor and state legislator Bernie Hunhoff talking about restaurants in South Dakota, Catherine Lambrecht speaking about heirloom recipes and Gwen Shock Cowherd discussing Germans from Russia foodways and traditions. Lambrecht is the founder of the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, and Cowherd is a South Dakota native who now writes about foodways and recipe books.

A Friday evening reception will be held for conference attendees at the Cultural Heritage Center.

Saturday’s program promises to be an interesting and fun journey through South Dakota, Smith said, beginning with Sara Uthoff’s presentation entitled “In the Pioneer Kitchen with Laura” in reference to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Uthoff, a respected authority on Wilder, is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and director of the Oxford, Iowa, Public Library.

Other Saturday sessions include Jerome Kills Small, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and former University of South Dakota instructor, discussing “Harvesting Foods and Medicines in the Siouan Homelands”; and Kevin Gansz, curator of education at the Old Courthouse Museum and Pettigrew House Museum in Sioux Falls, who will make a presentation about “Cruisin’ Cuisine: The Drive-Ins of Sioux Falls.”

Concluding Saturday’s presentations will be Dr. Howard Bonnemann, a faculty member of the Dairy Science program at South Dakota State University, who will speak about “Ice Cream in South Dakota: An SDSU Perspective.”

“We anticipate that conference attendees will have an opportunity to sample SDSU ice cream at some point during the conference,” Smith said.

Results of the annual State Historical Society board of trustee election will be released at Friday’s luncheon, and the Governor’s Awards for History winners will be announced at a luncheon on Saturday.

The conference offers teachers the opportunity to earn 11 contact hours from the State Department of Education.

For more information, call (605) 773-6000 or visit and click on the history conference link. The early registration deadline is April 8.

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