Committee remembers traditions of Hobo Week

Thirty-five years ago on Hobo eve, the Hobo Day Committee united hands and ascended the 180 steps to the top of Campanile at midnight — a Hobo Day tradition. They prayed for a safe, fun and successful Hobo Day.

Recalling the event, Doug Wermedal, a member of that committee, was overcome with emotion.

“That’s the first time I became aware I was doing something more than just having fun with friends,” said Wermedal, associate vice president for student affairs. “I can still feel the power of what we were doing for campus. Then, I was, like I am now, overwhelmed by the bigness of the thing. I was just an undergrad kid having fun with my friends, I did not have a sense that I was part of a tradition going back to the 1910s, that would extend until I had my own kids.”

Many of the events in place then have been around since the beginning of Hobo Day, and are still celebrated 105 years later.

Most of today’s staple Hobo Week events are time-honored traditions going back to the early days of Hobo Week. Rally at the Rails, the event to kick off every Hobo Day, started in 1907, according to Hobo Day Committee Grand Pooba Anna Chicoine.

“It started during the Night Shirt (parade). On Friday night, students walked to the railroad station, met the opposing team to welcome them to town and rouse them up a bit,” Chicoine said.

Alongside Rally at the Rails, Bum-A-Meal is a long-standing Hobo Week tradition. As students would make their way back to campus from the railroad, Chicoine said they’d stop at houses with their porch light on to get a can of soup. Once everyone returned to campus, students gathered to have a meal together over bonfires with the food they collected from community members.

“Another part of that is the Bum Fire on Tuesday night after Bum-A-Meal, which we added back last year,” Chicoine said. “It brings students back together after going out in the community. We serve hot chocolate, the cheer team comes, the Bum Band comes. It’s a lot of fun.”

Digital Library of South Dakota (DLSD)
Students eat bum stew by Coolidge Sylvan Theatre on South Dakota State College campus (1957). After welcoming the opposing team at the railroads, students got cans of soup from home’s with porch lights on and made bum stew over bonfires back on campus.

For 2014’s Grand Pooba Scott Deslauriers, Bum-A-Meal “rises to the top” of his favorite events leading up to Hobo Day.

“The opportunity to meet a family one doesn’t know and enjoy a meal around a table is an incredibly unique experience,” Deslauriers said. “Bum-A-Meal fulfills a central goal of Hobo Day, which is to connect the university and the community.”

The Hobo Day parade is unbeatable for Wermedal, though. He reminisced about hobo-mobiles and the committee working together to push the Bummobile through the parade when it was less than functional. It felt like the entire town and student community came together for the parade, Wermedal said.

Digital Library of South Dakota (DLSD)
SDSU Pride of the Dakotas marching band leads the 2002 Hobo Day parade on Medary Avenue.

Before the big day, there’s Hobolympics, formerly known as the Great Hobo Race, on Wednesday night. This will be the second year of the revamped Hobolympics, followed by the Bum Over Thursday, an event dating further back, in which students build a shanty village out of cardboard boxes.

On the morning of Hobo Day, the grand pooba is headquartered at “Pooba Corner,” Deslauriers said, which is the intersection of Medary Avenue and North Campus Drive.

“The ability to literally see the work of more than a year of planning and implementation by the entire committee come together creates an intense pride and humility in contributing to this more than a century-old tradition,” Deslauriers said.


High cost estimates stall student union renovations

The results are in from the Student Union space study but they don’t promise a full renovation — yet.

In fall 2016, Students’ Association presented a proposal to the South Dakota Board of Regents for an expansion of The Union. SDBOR declined the proposal, citing stagnant enrollment numbers at South Dakota State.

In response, SA allocated General Activity Fee (GAF) dollars to fund a space study of The Union to evaluate how to meet student needs in the current footprint of the building. Last spring, Cannon Moss Brygger Architects (CMBA) visited campus for a few days and held open sessions with students, faculty, staff and student organizations to hear concerns.

According to Jennifer Novotny, executive director of The Union, the primary concerns discussed in these sessions were moving the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to the main level of The Union, bringing student organizations together in one, collaborative space and upgrading the Volstorff Ballroom.

After these meetings, CMBA presented SDSU with several concepts for possible renovations of The Union. However, these concepts came with a much higher price tag than anticipated — between $5 and $10 million.

In the cost opinion from CMBA for one concept, it would cost $224 per square foot to renovate the lower and main levels of The Union, which is a total of 26,360 sq. feet. This alone totals nearly $6 million. To renovate the 12,200 sq. feet VBR, it would cost $180 per sq ft, which totals more than $2 million. This brings the total of option one to $8 million, not including projected costs for needed technology updates in the VBR, as well as food service and dining needs. Those would bring the total to just over $10 million.

So, now what?

Vice President for Student Affairs Michaela Willis said there is still a plan in place and work is being done to achieve a renovation.

“I do see that there is a path forward,” Willis said. “We may have to be a little more creative and it may take a little longer for the end result, but there is a path forward.”

Willis said they may look to accomplish the renovation in phases of priority, starting with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, then a collaborative student organization space, followed by VBR upgrades.

Renovations could be funded through the GAF increase, Willis said.

“This past spring, SDBOR approved a GAF increase, which will get (maintenance and repair) dollars for The Union and Wellness Center by investing 2 percent of the building’s value back into the building itself every year,” Willis said.

“That’s $1 million every year in The Union and $150,000 a year for the existing portion of the Wellness Center,” Willis said. “We haven’t been doing quite that much in those areas, but with the GAF increase we have a steady stream of funds to do that.”

For now, Novotny said conversations among student groups and their stakeholders will continue and the steering committee for The Union will still meet regularly.

“We hope a timeline will be put into place this semester. Something will happen,” Novotny said. “I’ve seen a lot of cool things while I’ve been here and a lot of great strides. As long as students continue to give feedback we’ll be on the right track.”

The steps toward renovating The Union go back about five years when the GAF strategic plan was put together. Student voices have propelled these plans from the get-go, Novotny said.

University Program Council President Cole Hinz is a member of the steering committee for this project and said his focus is to bring student feedback.

UPC’s priority is getting a student engagement hub for students to collaborate and create “synergy among student orgs,” Hinz said.

After looking at concepts and providing feedback since spring, Hinz said it’s exciting to see the focus be narrowed to two concepts that will lay the groundwork for the future.

“I enjoy sitting on the committee,” Hinz said. “It’s been a good experience working with other student orgs on a solution that can lay out the future of our Union.”

Kool Beans: home business to downtown destination

Twelve years ago, Kool Beans Coffee and Roasterie owner Kurt Osborne started roasting his own coffee on his stove top, and later his garage. Today, he’s serving Brookings from a coffee shop in the heart of downtown.

“I read a story about how you can roast your own coffee in the top of a popcorn popper and the interest just grew from there,” Osborne said. “Pretty soon people were asking about buying it so we bought a small home roaster. In May 2012, my partner Joy Nelson and I formed Kool Beans. Until now, we’ve been working out of the garage.”

Osborne met Nelson in 2012 at Joy Ranch in Watertown. Together, they turned Kool Beans into a fully-operating business.

Kool Beans began building in their downtown location in March and opened a month ago. Their shop features some personal touches, like a Hobo Day mug collection and Osborne’s father’s and grandfather’s letterman jackets in a shadowbox on the wall from their days as athletes at South Dakota State.

The shop is a collaborative, local effort, with glossy wooden countertops and tables built by the Ugly Duckling downtown. The baked goods served at Kool Beans are produced and delivered fresh daily by Carlie Appletoft, owner of CC Bakery and Bread.

“We get a lot of comments on the space that it’s welcoming and inviting. To hear that feedback is great,” Osborne said.

Before establishing Kool Beans as a coffee shop, Osborne could be seen on weekends at the Brookings Farmer’s Market offering pour over coffee. Kool Beans was also found in downtown locations such as The Carrot Seed and Threads of Memories, as well as Mission Coffee House at First Lutheran Church.

Kool Beans offers coffee from 12 countries around the world, 22 flavors in brewed coffee, espresso, French press and a pour over bar. The shop also features nitro cold brew, which is a cold brew coffee on tap from a keg. 

“The nitrogen bubbles are smaller than O2 bubbles which adds volume and creaminess to the coffee,” Osborne said. “It’s a new trend in the coffee business, we really wanted to have it from the get-go.”

Kool Beans roasts all their own coffee in-house with two brand new roasters.

“We still have the one in the garage for a backup, but we wanted people to be able to watch us roasting in the shop,” Osborne said, pointing out the viewing window and counter outside the roasting room.

Sophomore human biology major Cole McDougall has already established himself a regular at Kool Beans since its first week in business. He said he’d never had their coffee before their shop opened, but it’s already a staple in his week.

“It’s definitely some of the best coffee I’ve ever tried, and I love coffee; I’m definitely a coffee connoisseur,” McDougall said. “It has its own homey feel. It’s got so much character compared to other coffee shops. That’s the big thing that drew me in and kept me coming, especially since they do everything themselves by roasting their own coffee.”

Although Kool Beans is only open until 6 p.m. daily, Osborne said there will often be events in the evenings keeping the shop open later, and groups are also welcome to inquire about renting the space for events.

Kool Beans’ first public event is this Friday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. for the first day of fall. Osborne said they will be serving pumpkin cold brew and pumpkin baked goods.

Kool Beans is also looking forward to national coffee day on Sept. 29 and participating in “Sip ‘N Shop” with other downtown businesses, as well as Hobo Day on Oct. 14. Osborne said he’d like to host educational events about coffee, like “coffee around the world.”

“Helping people enjoy coffee in a lot of different ways makes it all worthwhile,” Osborne said. “It’s been fun. We have a really talented crew. It’s a good vibe and a good place to work. It’s been a pretty diverse crowd of college students, business people and families with kids playing in our ‘Kool Kids Corner.’”

One of Osborne’s employees, Erin Hollmann, moved to Brookings during the summer and was in search of another job outside of the school year when she isn’t teaching. She stumbled upon Kool Beans right before the shop opened and said it was “all hands on deck” to get things up and running.

Learning to make lattes and various drinks typical of coffee shops was a result of many YouTube tutorials and customer feedback, Hollmann said.

“It’s a really nice environment as a worker or as a customer,” Hollmann said. “You will be treated like family here, and however specific people’s needs are, we will find a way to meet them.”

Kool Beans is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Students can bring their student ID for $1 off coffee.