During the first week of February, people from across the region pull on their boots and gather in Rapid City to celebrate the area’s deep history of cattle ranching at the Black Hills Stock Show.
The Black Hills Stock Show is the second largest event in the state, after the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
On the vendor floor, you can find anything a cowboy or cowgirl would dream of. Among the leather boots, hides, saddles, and hats for sale, you can also find the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of South Dakota booth.
“We’re just selling safety,” says Todd Eliason, Assistant General Manager at Rushmore Electric Power Cooperative in Rapid City, SD. “We’ve been doing this for over 20 years.”
The SDREA booth features a tabletop safety demonstration, also known as “Neon Leon” or “Power Town.” The table demonstration features a model farmyard with a barn, house, overhead power lines, ground transformer, and props such as tree branches, a ladder, backhoe, and line down on a tractor.
With the step of a pedal, the operator can conduct electricity through the lines and produce a shock or arch with the props.
The presentation is designed to educate elementary aged children about the dangers of electricity, but all ages gather to see the demonstration.
As parents and grandparents pass by the booth, they’ll smile and nod, likely remembering the presentation from their earlier days. Parents with young cowboys and cowgirls along will nudge them towards the booth to hear about the importance of respecting electricity on the farm.
Eliason recalls working at the safety booth one year, and a young boy pointed at him, and yelled “That’s him!”
Eliason admits that his first thought was “Oh no. What did I do?”
However, the mother approached him in tears, gave him a big hug, and said,
“My son hit a power line with a tractor, and because he saw your presentation, he knew to stay in the tractor. He is here today because of you.”
Many cooperative representatives across the state can share similar stories where children, farm wives, and equipment operators knew exactly what to do in a dangerous situation involving electricity because they saw one of the cooperative’s electric safety presentation.
“When watching the demonstration, the kids probably don’t understand everything right away,” says Patrick Soukup, Manager of Member Services/Marketing at Central Electric Cooperative in Mitchell, SD. “But it might get them asking questions about electricity, and they’ll go look it up or bring it up in conversation.”
Kids rarely leave the booth empty-handed. Attendees can count on taking home a souvenir including pencils, rulers, bandaids, plastic hardhats, stickers, and a variety of different hand-outs to remind them about the presentation.
During the Stock Show, the electric cooperatives also facilitate the high voltage trailer demonstration held Thursday evening in conjunction with the sheep dog trials and mutton busting.
Representatives from the electric cooperatives from across South Dakota take turns operating the demonstration at the booth. In addition to the Stock Show, the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of South Dakota provide energy efficiency and safety education at other events across the state, including the South Dakota State Fair and Dakotafest. You can also likely find them at your local home and farm shows, town festival, school events, and more.
To request a safety demonstration in your community, contact your local electric cooperative.
By: Courtney J. Deinert