Pride of the Dakotas receives $50,000 challenge gift from Department of Tourism

Mara Wheaton, Lifestyles Editor

South Dakota State University’s Pride of the Dakotas marching band is just over two weeks away from embarking on its New York trip to perform in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. 

After ambitious fundraising efforts, the Pride is now in the home stretch, thanks to a challenge gift from the South Dakota Department of Tourism. This $50,000 challenge gift was given to support the Pride and their fundraising efforts, as well as encourage other individuals to donate.

Rina Reynolds, senior director of major gifts for the SDSU Foundation, said that the goal is $700,000 for the whole trip, and over 80% of the challenge grant has been reached.

This challenge gift started with the Foundation having multiple conversations with Larry Tidemann, former South Dakota state representative and senator. Tidemann currently resides in Brookings and is an SDSU graduate himself. 

“I was able to sit down with Larry and share with him a list of the hometowns of students in the band, and talk with him about the impact of almost 350 students from eight states being in the Pride of the Dakotas this year and the opportunity to have them featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said Tidemann was able to have multiple conversations with Jim Hagen, the secretary of tourism for South Dakota.

“Clearly he (Tidemann) was successful in communicating on behalf of our work for the Pride and really just the number of small towns represented throughout South Dakota,” Reynolds said. 

Kevin Kessler, director of athletic Bands, expressed that the Pride is incredibly grateful. 

“The first and most important thing is how very grateful we are for people’s support,” Kessler said. “I’m grateful as the director that the effort of the students is being recognized in that way.” 

There are about 700 individuals going on the trip, according to Reynolds. Approximately 344 students, 300 friends and family members and 125 alumni will be attending. The fundraising efforts only go toward student expenses.

Brennan Mason, a sophomore drum major in the Pride, said that he is looking forward to the Pride being able to show off what they have been working on.

“The entire band has been working so hard, and I can’t wait to see it pay off at Macy’s,” Mason said. “Everyone should be excited for what the Pride’s bringing to New York. I don’t think anyone is ready for the excellence that will be shown on Thanksgiving.” 

The Pride is set to perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Nov. 24. 

Mason said the opportunity is “phenomenal” for the Pride and described the support as “unreal.”

“Whether it’s Coach Stiegelmeier, President Dunn or the crowd at the football games, everyone makes sure we know that we’re supported,” Mason said.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air Nov. 24, starting at 9 a.m. CST. 

“We’re going to use that generosity to represent the state and the university the best we can,” Kessler said.