YANKTON, S.D. (KELO) — If you’ve ever wanted to see Olympic athletes in action, Yankton is the place to do it. The city is hosting the World Archery Championships this week.
Drive into Yankton and it’s the first face you’ll see, the number one ranked archer in the world, Brady Ellison.
“Yankton has a lot of tournaments, they have one of the best indoor facilities ever. Right now I want to say the outdoor facility is the worst ever, but they can’t control the weather,” said USA Olympic archer Brady Ellison.
All kidding aside, Ellison likes the friendly people in Yankton as much as the facility itself. He hopes the athletes get a good impression of the United States.
“You put USA on your back and everyone treats you a little bit different when you’re overseas. I feel like most of the time we have the responsibility to show everyone that what our political people do is not what the general person from America is like,” said Ellison.
Archers are getting a good first impression of both the people and the massive Yankton facility.
“It’s really nice here, it’s super, it’s so big!” said Mexican Olympic archer Alejandra Valencia.
“It’s the second time we had the event in the United States, the last time was New York, so we’re putting Yankton on the same level as New York, so I think Yankton should be excited about that,” said Tom Dielen with World Archery.
Yankton is playing host to more than 350 athletes from 50 countries. The event would have been even larger, if not for Covid.
“We lost some countries because of the pandemic, some couldn’t travel because of that. I think of Australia for example, where it’s simply impossible for the Australians to come at the moment. We also have some that will face a two week quarantine going back home. They took the effort to come and we’re very happy with that,” said Dielen.
Every athlete is being tested and is required to wear a mask indoors.
Anyone can come watch the competition and you don’t need to know anything about archery to attend and have fun.
“There’s no charge to come, everything is open. Whether it be here for qualification rounds or at Riverside Park for the finals, it’s all open and free of charge,” said Bruce Cull with the National Field Archery Association.
“Live music and food trucks and vendors and outdoor archery activities zone,” said Kasi Haberman with the National Field Archery Association.
A family-friendly “archery fest” event caps off Saturday night with a free concert by Brule at Riverside Park then a fireworks show. The archers will also be part of Yankton’s homecoming parade.
“We’re inviting the athletes to join us in the homecoming parade and kind of do a mini version of the opening ceremony from the Olympics so they’re going to hop into the parade and be there representing their countries right here in Yankton, “said Haberman.
Yankton is welcoming the tournament with open arms and why not? Sports tourism is a really big deal in this small town.
“Our budget for this event is between four and five million and when you start looking at the residuals and the domino effect it has, it’s huge,” said Cull.
It takes a lot of volunteers to run an event this big.
“I started a couple of days ago, I picked up the archery team from Bangladesh at the Omaha airport,” said volunteer Brian Bertsch.
Brian Bertsch is one of 800 volunteers working the event. He’s hoping to make a good impression.
“There’s all kinds of really good people in Yankton and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. We’re all here to do what we can and almost all of them are friendly. I only know five grouchy ones,” said Bertsch.
Friendly volunteers and a family atmosphere have archery growing worldwide. The summer Olympics was a shot in the arm for the sport along with some popular movies.
“When Hunger Games came out, we in Yankton, South Dakota and the surrounding area saw an influx of teenage girls. They got more involved in recreational archery and that’s just dominos, so archery is growing,” said Cull.
“The social media figures I’ve seen from the Olympics are fantastic and we see there is definitely growth in the sport,” said Dielen.
A sport that’s growing, at least in part, because of the largest archery center in the world.