Huron, SD, USA

Spirit of Dakota - South Dakota’s Premier Women's Award

Established in October 1986, the Spirit of Dakota Award is an annual honor bestowed each fall by the Spirit of Dakota Award Society at a state-wide event at the Huron Event Center. The Spirit of Dakota award is given to:

  • An outstanding South Dakota woman who has demonstrated leadership qualities and has been successful and admired in her community and state.
  • A woman with roots deep in Dakota whose courage and strength of character have helped develop her family and community.
  • A woman who has represented social, cultural, and education advancement for others.
  • This award is not Mother of the Year, nor Teacher of the Year, nor categorized but rather a recognition of those outstanding women who have been the symbols of all that we are proud of in our Prairie Women.
  • The nominee does not need to be a native of South Dakota, but must be a current, living resident of the state.

2024 Spirit of Dakota Award - October 12, 2024


Close August 1st

Schedule of Events

Huron Event Center

October 12, 2024
3:00 PM Nominee Tea
4:00 PM Art Show Opens
5:30 PM Social
6:30 PM Award & Celebration Banquet

For banquet tickets call Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau - 605-352-0000

For hotel rooms call the Crossroads Hotel - 1-800-876-5858

Nomination Form


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Spirit of Dakota Award

This prestigious Spirit of South Dakota award plaque is an outstanding piece of art; each individually created by renowned sculptor, Dale Claude Lamphere, and treasured by each honoree. A one-foot bronze oval is graced with the pioneer woman sculpted upon its facade. To further illuminate the award, the bronze oval is mounted on smoky black lucite which is etched with the award inscription. The final element of the honor is an 18x20 burnished gold wooden frame which securely holds the cherished woman.

History of Spirit of Dakota Award

The nine foot bronze sculpture "Spirit of Dakota" which stands at the entrance of the Crossroads Hotel & Huron Event Center is the source for the state-wide Spirit of Dakota Award. Dale Claude Lamphere, nationally recognized sculptor and artist, is the creator. This sculpture of a pioneer woman balanced against the wind was unveiled and dedicated in October 1987 by the citizens of Huron and is the unique possession of this community.

Spirit of Dakota Award Winner 2023: Julie Bell, Brookings

Julie Bell     

A willingness to serve others with vision and purpose aptly describes Julie Bell, Brookings, SD, the 2023 Spirit of Dakota Award winner. For over half a century, Julie has given selflessly in developing the next generation of student leaders and advisers in the field of family and consumer science – a field impacting the quality of life – not only in her beloved state of South Dakota but on a national level as well.

“As the State Advisor for South Dakota FCCLA (Family, Consumer, Career Leaders of America), Mrs. Bell’s leadership shepherded the state FFCLA program to unprecedented levels of success, and as a result, impact thousands of students with programs to prepare them for future roles in families and careers,” stated Jane Tschetter Lucas, past state and national officer of the organization. “For me, Mrs. Bell’s calm, encouraging approach to mentoring students helped give me the confidence to run for leadership positions and learn skills that helped shape my career path . . . I used the skills I learned from Mrs. Bell and FCCLA to help launch my career into public service where I spent more than a decade of service as a lawyer to the United States Senate and in the White House. Without a doubt, I would not be on the career path I am on if not for Mrs. Bell’s dedication to ensuring there are programs across South Dakota to help students prepare for a successful future.”

During her distinguished years of service, Julie Bell led the FCCLA with a pioneering spirit, plowing through new ground by guiding the chapter advisers who in turn planted seeds of encouragement among their students. “At South Dakota State University, she planted seeds of community service in her education majors and FCCLA`ers. In training them to implement service, her seeds became an abundant harvest of hundreds of community projects carried out annually,” stated Joan G. Anderson, one of her nominators for the Spirit of Dakota Award. Other nominators included Kris Brockhoft, Dr. Deb DeBates, Jean Clarke, and Bev Rieck.

As State Advisor, Julie worked with local chapters to organize leadership training camps and annual state leadership meetings. She also trained state officer teams, developed peer education teams, and led the South Dakota student and advisor delegation to the National Leadership Conferences. When Students Taking Action with Recognition (STAR) competitive events were introduced, Julie helped launch STAR in South Dakota. Competitions focused on leadership, career, and technical education skills. Julie served two terms on the National FCCLA Board of Directors, including as chairperson, and presented workshops in multiple states. As a result of the FCCLA students’ training, members consistently implement hundreds of community service projects across the state yearly.

Additionally, the 2023 Spirit of Dakota Award honoree has generously given of her time and talents serving in various leadership roles in her church, community and across the state. These include the Brookings Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, United Living Community, First Lutheran Church, Habitat for Humanity, Project Joy, Altrusa, and the Lions Club, to name a few.

The Spirit of Dakota Award Society extends our congratulations to this year’s recipient, a woman of courage and character who will continue to influence present and future generations in her community and state.

Distinguished Honorees

  • 1987 - *Mrs. Winifred Lorentson, Miller
  • 1988 - *Dr. Jeanie K. Sherman, Madison
  • 1989 - *Florence Bruhn, Watertown
  • 1990 - *Jeanette Lusk, Huron
  • 1991 - *Dorothy (D.J.) Cline, Brookings
  • 1992 - No Award Presentation
  • 1993 - *Ruth Ziolkowski, Custer
  • 1994 - Sylvia Henkin., Sioux Falls
  • 1995 - Irene Fisher Coon, Sioux Falls
  • 1996 - Hildreth Twostars Venegas, Sisseton
  • 1997 - * Lorraine Huntimer, Oldham
  • 1998 - Mary Lou Tripp, Belle Fourche
  • 1999 - Marsha Sumpter, Phillip
  • 2000 - *Donna Schipke, Newell
  • 2001 - Phyllis White Eyes DeCory, Rapid City
  • 2002 - *Virginia Keil Lardinois, Huron
  • 2003 - Patricia Fawcett, Ree Heights
  • 2004 - *Alice Kundert, Mound City
  • 2005 - No Award Presentation
  • 2006 - Janice Manolis, Huron
  • 2007 - June James, Hazel
  • 2008 - Elaine Doll-Dunn, Spearfish
  • 2009 - Julie Garreau, Eagle Butte
  • 2010 - *Dorothy Kellogg, Watertown
  • 2011 - Millie Humphrey, Whitewood
  • 2012 - Mary J. Milroy, MD, Yankton
  • 2013 - Patricia Baird, Custer
  • 2014 - Theresa Stehly, Sioux Falls
  • 2015 - Mary Alice Woster Haug, Brookings
  • 2016 - Susan DeLaney-Kary, Parmelee
  • 2017 - *Jean Wilkinson, DeSmet
  • 2018 - Beverly Stabber Warne, Rapid City
  • 2019 - Jo Vitek, Watertown
  • 2020 - No Award Presentation
  • 2021 - Angela Ehlers, Presho
  • 2022 - No Award Presentation
  • 2023 - Julie Bell, Brookings

* Denotes Deceased Recipient

Selection Commission

  • Tona Rozum, Chair - Mitchell
  • Jean Hunhoff - Yankton
  • Carol Johnson - Watertown
  • Julie M Johnson - Aberdeen
  • Suzette Kirby - Sioux Falls
  • Julie Garreau - Eagle Buttte
  • Marsha Sumpter - Kadoka
  • Ginger Thomson - Brookings
  • Jacque Sly - Rapid City

Spirit of Dakota Award Society

  • Beckie Freeman, Nominee Tea Chair
  • Shelley Noonan
  • Bette Poppen
  • Terri Anderson-Schlader
  • Linda Schwartz
  • Margo Anderson
  • Darcy Haber
  • Sarah Rubish
  • Erica McNeil
  • Jenny Sorben
  • Jane Meekins
  • Carol Milbrandt
  • Chery Dick
  • Beula Jean Helmer
  • Sarah Radke
  • Deannie LeRoux, Member Emeritus

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