SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — KELOLAND turns 70 in just about a month.
For decades, kids in our viewing area tuned into Captain 11, a longtime children’s show broadcast from our studio.
Jennie Hoefer’s 4th birthday in 1985 is one she’ll never forget.
“We went to McDonald’s with all my friends and we all then hopped in the car and went to KELO-TV and watched Captain 11,” Crew member Jennie Hoefer said.
Hoefer took a picture with the local icon.
“There’s my McDonald’s hat that I wore for my birthday party with Grimace on it,” Hoefer said.
She also sat in the front row as kids in the studio watched cartoons.
The excitement of being on local television is a feeling Hoefer shares with her father, David Drewes.
He visited Captain 11 as a four-year-old boy growing up in Rock Rapids, Iowa in the 1960s.
“It just shows the longevity of Captain 11 and the specialty of that,” Crew member David Drewes said.
KELO-TV’s Dave Dedrick portrayed Captain 11 from 1955 to 1996.
Kids in KELOLAND watched the show after school.
On special occasions, they stopped by the studio to be a part of the audience.
Melanie Sides grew up in Bridgewater.
She appeared on Captain 11 with her siblings who were celebrating birthdays.
“That was really fun and fantastic for a small-town kid, getting to go to the big city and be on TV,” Crew member Melanie Sides said.
Sometimes it got a little chaotic behind the scenes.
“You have the littles that don’t want to sit still. The bigger kids like me would sit on the bleachers and watch the cartoons, but you’ve always got the littles who just run,” Crew member Ken Nielsen said.
The man in the familiar blue suit made appearances outside of the studio, too.
Chelle Hart got a special visit from the Captain when she was a young girl.
“When I was four years old I had a brain tumor, and it destroyed the optic nerve, but I was in the hospital and Captain 11 came to see several of us kids that were in the hospital and we just got to be lifelong friends after that,” Crew member Chelle Hart said.
“If you saw him come to the state fair or something, it was like Elvis got off the plane. Everyone was attracted to Captain 11,” Former KELO-TV anchor Steve Hemmingsen said.
Hemmingsen worked alongside Dedrick for many years.
“I think he is KELO’s history, everything that came since. Doug, me, Leo, they were all spun off of Captain 11 in one way or another. A kiddie show in that day and age in rural South Dakota, rural southwest Minnesota, that was a pretty big deal, and I think Captain 11 was the personification of KELOLAND even after the show went off the air,” Hemmingsen said.
Captain 11’s retirement marked a sad time for Hoefer.
“‘Captain 11 is retiring?’ It was just like, ‘No more cartoons?’ It was an era that no one can repeat,” Hoefer said.
But it’s a time that can be remembered through photos and memories from Captain 11’s crew members.
If you have any Captain 11 memories you’d like to share, visit our 70th-anniversary page.