SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The annual Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic scheduled for February 2021 in Sioux Falls has been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The event would have brought millions of dollars to the Sioux Falls and South Dakota economies, officials say, but it’ll be back.
Officials for Pheasants Forever, the nonprofit behind Pheasant Fest, are already talking to Experience Sioux Falls about returning to the city in 2024, said Bob St. Pierre, chief marketing and communications officer for Pheasants Forever.
“It’s our intent to come back to Sioux Falls as soon as possible,” St. Pierre said. “It’s one of our favorite markets.”
Pheasant Fest’s first foray to the Pheasant Capital in 2018 resulted in landmark successes for both local tourism officials and the national groups that organize the three-day convention, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.
Topping 28,000 in attendance, the event drew guests and vendors from across the Midwest and the region. The same people who spent their days in the various halls and show floors of the building at 1201 N. West Ave. also made their mark on the rest of the Sioux Falls community.
The money they spent on hotels, food, entertainment, transportation, medical care and everything else guests might want or need during a three-day stay totaled in the millions of dollars. The estimated economic impact of the 2018 event was $3.9 million, said Teri Schmidt, executive director of the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Sioux Falls community expected the same or better turnout for the planned event when it was announced earlier this year.
“We really feel badly about it, but it is the reality of our time right now,” Schmidt said of the cancellation. “Even if we save one person from passing away from COVID, then we have absolutely done what’s right. One person’s life is more valuable than pushing for an event that can wait.”
Several large events, conferences and conventions have been impacted due to the pandemic. Economically, it’s a hit to not only Sioux Falls, but South Dakota as a whole to not have the event in February, Schmidt said.
And Sioux Falls isn’t the only one losing out because of the decision. Pheasant Fest is one of the Pheasants Forever’s largest fundraisers and would have raised nearly $1 million for the nonprofit, St. Pierre said.
“There’s a worldwide pandemic going on and it’s not getting any better in the short-term,” St. Pierre said. “This decision was not made lightly, and the safety of our audiences was first and foremost.”
While it isn’t finalized that Pheasant Fest will return in 2024, it is the earliest they can return since they’ve already committed to Omaha in 2022. The organization does not sign multiple year contracts, St. Pierre said.
But he’s sure they’ll return, based on the outpouring of support when Sioux Falls last hosted the event.
And Sioux Falls will be waiting when they do.
“We’ll be ready, open arms and orange carpet ready to roll out when they’re ready to come back,” Schmidt said.
Although the in-person event was canceled, there will be a virtual gathering in late February. Until then, Schmidt is waiting until Pheasant Fest can return to South Dakota.
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