Pheasant Fest taking flight with strong early interest

Feb. 5, 2018 

When the 2018 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic arrives in Sioux Falls later this month, it will be one of the largest trade shows ever hosted by the city.

Sioux Falls also will be the smallest market to host the event from Pheasants Forever, which last year drew more than 30,000 people over three days in Minneapolis.

Bringing the event to a market this size “was the biggest question mark coming into it,” acknowledged spokesman Jared Wiklund.

The early answer, though, looks like the event made the right choice, he said.

“Sioux Falls is making a lot of sense,” Wiklund said. “Looking at ticket sales so far for our banquets, this has the potential to be one of the biggest shows we’ve ever had.”

Visitor interest

Pheasant Fest starts at noon Feb. 16 and concludes at 4 p.m. Feb. 18. In between, organizers expect 20,000 to 30,000 people to pack the Sioux Falls Convention Center complex, where 400 exhibitors await.

“I don’t think we could fill another booth or janitor closet in the Convention Center. It’s been that good,” Wiklund said. “Barring any huge weather events, I think we’re set up for a spectacular show.”

A Saturday banquet featuring Steven Rinella, host of the TV show “Meat Eater,” has sold out with 1,300 attendees. A Friday banquet with beer sampling and food has sold 1,100 tickets.

“And full weekend registration, I think, is ahead of anywhere we’ve ever been, so if that reflects on the show floor, I think we’re looking at a strong week in Sioux Falls,” Wiklund said.

His organization reserved rooms at several hotels, and booking at others has been strong, he said.

“People are finding hotel rooms. Cost has gone up since word has gotten out, but we filled up all the hotel rooms we reserved from the beginning, and I know there’s overflow into other areas. I think when you look at the visitor and room tax that comes back to the community, we’re looking to help make a bump to that in a couple weeks.”

He has talked with attendees from North Dakota, Kansas, Iowa and the East Coast, he said.

“There’s people coming from all corners of the United States for Pheasant Fest in Sioux Falls, and they’re going to be bringing their checkbooks and spending a couple days in town, and I think that says a lot about the venue and being able to host in Sioux Falls.”

Businesses buying in

The Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau is experiencing a lot of interest in the event, too.

“Sioux Falls is showing great excitement,” executive director Teri Schmidt said. “From the media to the hotels, retailers, attractions, restaurants and more, people are coming up with ideas on how they can show their hospitality and enthusiasm for the event. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of orange.”

Businesses also should remember to recognize the event on their signage and consider how else they can capitalize on the thousands of visitors in town, Schmidt said.

EastBank Art Gallery is hoping to draw many of them with its recently released Pheasant and Hunting Art Fest. Work from 20 South Dakota and Minnesota artists is on display at the 8th & Railroad Center gallery through February.

“We decided last year we would do a pheasant, wildlife and upland game bird art show because we heard that the national event would be here,” said Ruthmary Jackson, an EastBank member.

All of the pieces are for sale, with prices ranging from $100 to $1,000 for a bronze sculpture. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“That’s a perfect example of how businesses can create additional excitement around the event,” Schmidt said. “I’m sure we’ll see more businesses announcing plans as Pheasant Fest draws closer.”

Convention-goers also can partake at customized concession stands and food outlets within the Convention Center.

Spectra Food Services and Hospitality will serve pheasant chowder, bison chili, sirloin beef chislic and something called the p3, which is a “hearty pulled pork parfait that’s made up of creamy garlic mashed potatoes and 24-hour slow-smoked pulled pork, topped with house-made gravy and crunchy fried onion strings.  Food service provider Spectra also teamed up with Casey’s Bakery to create a “blaze orange bun” for the event. The barbecue sandwich will be topped with orange myrtle Midwestern coleslaw.

Beer maker A Homestead Brew from Valley Springs also has partnered to create a “pheasantenial lager” that will be served at some area hotels and restaurants, Wiklund said, with a portion of sales going to conservation efforts.

“Our people like to come in and have a good time,” he said. “They’ll have a few cocktails, and they’re looking for things to do, so the more businesses can promote what they have going on, whether it’s family-oriented or nightlife, they stand to benefit greatly. We hope the economic impact is in the multimillion-dollar range, and we think it will be.”

Pheasant Fest taking flight with strong early interest

When Pheasant Fest arrives later this month, it will be the event’s smallest market. But early responses suggests it also could be one of its biggest shows yet.

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