Someone You Should Know: SD Native Has Long History Of Calling History At Sioux Empire Fair

The Sioux Empire Fair turned 78-years-old this year, and there’s one man who has only missed 20 of them. Not only has the Huron native attended the fair every year, he has a rich history of calling history at the W.H. Lyons Fairgrounds. KDLT’s Jill Johnson shows us why Denny Oviatt is ‘Someone You Should Know’.

“You always have to have fair food. You always have to, but they always come up with unique items,” said Oviatt.

While a lot has changed over the years, Oviatt says some things have remained the same at the Sioux Empire Fair.

Oviatt said, “You know you still have the Ferris Wheel, it may be larger, it may go a little bit faster, and the Tilt-a-Whirl, and things like that. Those were, and had been, kind of staples of the fair for many, many years, and they continue that way too.”

Oviatt knows its history just as well as anyone; when the grandstand was built and about the pictures that adorn the inside. That’s because he’s lived a lot of those moments. His first fair here was in 1960 as a radio and television personality for KSOO.

Oviatt said while being interviewed, “We had a little tent out here. Well, it was actually a large tent, and we interviewed people out here just like you’re doing now Jill.”

Oviatt eventually became the voice of Huset’s Speedway in 1973 when the fairgrounds was home to the racetrack.

“We used to call it the ‘Dirty, Dirty, Demo Derby…’,” Oviatt said smiling in his deep announcer voice.

He says back then racing was the main event.

“I was up in that crows nest up here when we ever had races and demolition derbies at the fair,” said Oviatt.

But Oviatt has been announcing horse shows at the fairgrounds even longer… for 53 years; something he still does today all over the United States. And even if you’ve never been to those events, you’ve probably still heard his voice.

For the past several years, he has also been sitting under the grandstands announcing events every half-hour over the intercom.

More than five decades later, he still doesn’t know when he’ll stop showing up. He says coming back allows him to relive its sweet history, and many, many great memories.

Oviatt said, “I’ve tried to retire for many, many years, but they keep saying, ‘Well, will you come back for one more year?’, but at the age of 78, I don’t know.”

One of those sweet memories for Oviatt: He says he remembers calling Jeff Gordon’s name at the racetrack when he was just 13-years-old.

Oviatt currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.


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