Kings For A Day

Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Linda and I were out with some friends the other night and a couple people, who recognized me from my TV days, stopped over at our table to say hi. As I approach two years of retirement, that sort of thing happens less and less these days. I’m fine with that but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss it sometimes.
Steve Hemmingsen was never very comfortable with the notoriety and celebrity status that was a natural part of years of exposure on Keloland TV..but, heck, I always kind of liked it..especially at state fair time.
So did Joe Floyd, the guy who really started Keloland in 1953.  As the station grew and became more successful, Joe really enjoyed the financial benefits of that success..including the purchase of a company airplane and the hiring of a personal pilot. Floyd loved aviation and even served as commander of the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol.  He kept that Beechcraft King Air busy flying all over the country on business and pleasure trips. But for one week a year…that big beautiful 11 passenger airplane was reserved for us; the so-called stars of Keloland.
Early on Wednesday morning of state fair week, Steve Hemmingsen and I along with sports director Jim Burt and a few others would gather at Business Aviation and be escorted aboard our waiting airplane for the half hour flight to Huron.  Ever the promoter, Floyd wanted his on-air talent to get out there and mingle with the folks attending the fair. That’s Steve Hemmingsen mugging for the camera aboard the Keloland King Air on our short flight to Huron. I’m in the middle next to Jim Burt.
After we landed, a Keloland van would pull right up to the plane..just like Air Force One.. to pick us up, take us through the gates, on to the grounds and right up to the double wide trailer that served as Keloland headquarters throughout fair week. Wow..what special treatment. I felt like Elvis!
Dave Dedrick never rode with us on the plane  he usually drove ahead the night before taking Captain Eleven with him for the annual live telecast at the Freedom Stage which always drew thousands of kids and adults anxious to see him in person.
In the early years, Jim, Steve and I would just walk around the fairgrounds passing out program schedules and talking to people which all of us found rather awkward. People figured we were trying to sell them something. Burt and me strolling the fairgrounds trying to give away program schedules. "I don’t know..they’d much are they there then?"Then, sometime in the 80’s, our promotion director, Devin Duncan, had a brilliant idea. He bought a few thousand  sun visors with the Keloland logo on them as souvenirs for the folks who stopped by our trailer. Pretty soon, people were asking if we’d write our name on them. Sensing a great promotional opportunity, Devin went scrambling to find a bunch of grease pens, a table and some chairs.
From then on, there we sat in front of the trailer as long lines of people formed… anxious for a free autographed visor. One of the old Keloland visors. They’ve become quite a collector’s item..selling on E-bay forthousands of dollars. Well, maybe not. I don’t think Hemmingsen and Burt were ever too wild about being plopped down in the sun for hours signing cheap foam headware and answering the same questions over and over..but I have to admit that I loved it.
At the end of a long day being big shots at the fair,  we were chauffeured back to the plane. Pilot, Tim Walsh always had the on-board fridge fully stocked with snacks and  brewed beverages which we gladly consumed since we were excused from our on-air duties that night.
Sadly, when Mr. Floyd retired..the King Air and our fair trips in which we were “treated” like kings, retired too.
Wish that could happen again.
Wait a minute.
Honey, I’ll be right back. I’m gonna run to the store and buy a couple Powerball tickets.

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