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ROADS LEAD TO MENNO ...

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To Menno Livestock, specifically, where last Wednesday former Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether filmed a spot for KELO’s ‘On The Road’

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This story is being made available to all subscribers and non-subscribers in tandum with the Jan. 28 episdoe of On the Road with Mike Huether, which aired on KELO Television Tuesday. If you enjoy this kind of storytelling, please consider subscribing to the Courier.

 

Mike Huether’s bloodline runs through the towns and rural roads of Hutchinson County. 

While he is proud to claim the Yankton Bucks and the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits as his alma maters, both his mom and his dad are from Tripp and, in addition to Huether, his ancestry includes familiar surnames like Guthmiller, Schmidt and Stoebner.

It’s no wonder, then, that the former Sioux Falls mayor felt right at home during a visit to Menno last Wednesday, Dec. 11, to film a spot for his television program “On The Road,” which he has developed in partnership with KELO Television; it will embark on its second season next month. Specifically, Huether and KELO photographer/videographer Taylor Yocum spent about 3 ½ hours at Menno Livestock Auction focusing on the work being done by Ken and Lynn Wintersteen, who have operated since 2003 the legendary sale barn that opened in Menno in 1915.

“I’ve got Hutchinson County roots throughout my body — my value system, my thought process, my heritage, it’s all there,” said Huether. “The stuff that we used to care about, and the stuff that I still care about, is happening at the Menno Livestock Auction. I am so darned proud that I can now bring that story to TV.”

The 6 ½ minute spot will air as part of Episode 1 of Season 2 of “On The Road” Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m., immediately following KELO’s 6 o’clock news. Stories from two other communities — Davis and Elk Point — will be also be featured as part of the 30-minute episode. But Huether told the Courierthat he believes the story from the Menno Livestock Auction will be among the best he’s done.

“When Taylor and I turned the corner and saw the Menno Livestock Auction, I turned to him and said, ‘This is going to be one of our best ever,’ and it proved to be that,” he said. “And I haven’t even written the show.”

The experience of the Menno Livestock Auction and the three interviews conducted last Wednesday — with Ken, his wife, Lynn, and Mike Miller, a producer from Viborg who raises cattle and hogs and grows row crops on his family farm and has been coming to the sale barn for the past 15 years — represents all that is good about small-town South Dakota. And it represents the heart and soul that is “On The Road,” says Huether, who pitched the idea to KELO three times before the station agreed to take it on.

“There’s nothing negative about it; there’s nothing political about it,” he says. “It is truly done to inspire, to motivate, to make people feel good about life, even though life is hard at times. You can sit down for a half-hour and really feel good about the things life is bringing.”

Huether’s latest project comes on the heels of his work as Sioux Falls Mayor, an office he held from 2010 to 2018 after working the better part of his life in corporate America.

Huether said he decided to pursue the mayoral seat after spending his working career in the corporate world, and he’s grateful voters elected him to office — twice.

“I was doing very well in corporate America, but I got to a point where my heart wasn’t very full,” he told the Courier. “I wanted to serve the people, so I quit my job as the executive vice president of the 10th largest credit card company in America to try to become the mayor of Sioux Falls. And thanks to the people of Sioux Falls, and thanks to my family, we served as mayor for two terms.”

It was in his final year as mayor that Huether first pitched his idea to travel the roads of South Dakota and tell the stories of regular people doing remarkable things in small towns, but it wasn’t until he was out of office that KELO agreed to pursue the idea. Huether was invited to film three “test shows” for consideration, including the one that would help launch what turned out to be a 27-epside first season focusing on Gary and Phil Luke and Marion Machine.

Huether says that episode remains one of his favorites and says he has a similar feeling about his time at the Menno Livestock Auction, where he enjoyed a chili dog, french fries and the combination pie/brownie dessert from the sale barn’s lunchroom.

“It was just a powerful day,” he said. “One of the blessings that I have when I’m on the road is hearing these powerful stories and meeting these people who just want to be humble and do their thing. The Wintersteens are that way; they just want to make a difference in their own special way. But what they’re doing takes a ton of sacrifice, a ton of work, incredible hours and incredible teamwork.”

Last week’s visit to Menno will be one to remember, he said.

“It really does come down to the memories,” Huether said. “In my life I try to create as many memories as I can, and if I can have fun doing it, it makes it all the better. And this is a ton of fun. 

“One of the biggest things that has impacted me is that these people are just so darn thankful. These towns just don’t get any attention anymore from the big boys and the big girls. This show gives that, and we’re bringing inspiration to light.”