In a year when events have been canceled right and left in response to the pandemic, one fact sparks hope in those who are seeking safe opportunities to socialize with others. Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.
With this in mind, St. Peter on the Prairie is offering two opportunities in August to get outdoors and have a good time: the Third Annual Wine and Field Dinner on Aug. 7 and the Prairie Tractor Drive on Aug. 15.
"Just being outside in a rural setting is amazing," said board member Charlie Johnson, explaining one aspect of the dining experience that folks may enjoy.
The quality of the food itself is another. The Wine and Field Dinner, a fund-raiser and awareness event for the rural nonprofit, will be catered by Icon Lounge with chef Carter Weiland creating a menu around fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
"He will not be able to plan the menu until three or four days before the dinner," said coordinator Melissa Miller. Each of the four courses will be paired with a wine that complements the dish.
"That's part of the fun of the event -- the surprise of each course," Miller explained.
While she has not personally attended a Wine and Field Dinner in the past, she is familiar with the food at Parker's Bistro, the Sioux Falls restaurant which established Weiland's reputation.
"It's amazing, fresh, good food," she said.
Even Johnson -- who is a self-professed "picky eater" -- describes the food as amazing.
"There hasn't been anything I haven't liked," he said.
St. Peter on the Prairie is making some changes in the event this year to create a safer environment for those who attend. In the past, dinner has been served on one long table. This year, smaller tables will be scattered around the field. This will create a different dynamic, allowing for more socialization.
"When you get seated at a very long table, you're pretty much stuck with the person beside you and across the table," Johnson said. "For me, personally, I will be more comfortable with this."
In addition, servers will wear masks and gloves. Guests will be asked to pick up their plates from a serving station so that servers will not be invading their personal space by reaching over them.
"We're going to try to be as safe as we can with the whole event," Johnson said.
In addition, the event is timed to end prior to sundown when the bugs come out. The social hour begins at 5 p.m. with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available from Johnson by calling 605-270-2665 or from Miller by calling 605-480-2839.
Reservations must be made and payment received by Aug. 3, according to Miller. The cost is $125 per person. The rain date is Aug. 8.
Last year, approximately 60 people attended. The first year, approximately 80 people attended.
Miller, who has been working for St. Peter on the Prairie since earlier this year, describes the event as a "classy event," especially the food. A more casual event will be held the following week when folks are invited to come with their tractors and take the scenic drive from St. Peter on the Prairie to Montrose for a tractor parade and lunch.
The Prairie Tractor Drive will fill a void which exists because the annual Steam Threshing Jamboree at Prairie Village has been canceled this year. Those with tractors dating from 1980 or earlier can still gather and participate in an event which will showcase their tractors.
"A lot of people have these restored tractors that they take pride in," Miller said.
Johnson said those with tractors will gather at St. Peter on the Prairie around 9 a.m. and travel to Montrose at a speed of 8-10 miles per hour, leaving around 10 a.m. In Montrose, there will be a parade with an announcer. To provide the announcer with information, participants are asked to write a couple of sentences about their tractors on their registration forms.
Following the parade, tractors will be lined up for visitors to examine while participants enjoy an outdoor meal prepared by the Office Bar in Montrose. After lunch, participants will return to St. Peter on the Prairie, arriving around 2 or 2:30 p.m.
"In a time of social distancing, there's no better social distancing than tractors going down the road," Johnson said.
The entry fee for the Prairie Tractor Drive is $25. This includes lunch. Additional lunches are available at $10 each. For more information or to register either Johnson or Miller can be contacted at the numbers listed above.
Currently, no other public events are scheduled at St. Peter on the Prairie this year. However, Johnson believes the two events scheduled will enable people to appreciate the facility and location.
"Hopefully, they'll come out and have a good time and come back again," he said.