One week ago, the 25th Annual Prairie Family Business Conference hosted their two-day event at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Sioux Falls. This annual conference is the number one educational and networking event in the region for family businesses and with over 320 attendees participating in the event; this year boasted the largest-ever annual conference in their 25-year history. Those in attendance were from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio & Missouri.

Spotlighted at the event this year, as family business success stories, were that of TABASCO® and “JIFFY” Mix. Tony Simmons, President and CEO of McIlhenny Company, the manufacturers of TABASCO Brand Pepper Sauce, joined the main stage for attendees on the first day of the conference. Friday morning’s conference was opened by Howdy Holmes, President and CEO of “JIFFY” Mix. Holmes spoke about the transformation of their family business over the years.

During the conference, Prairie Family Business Associated recognized two exceptional families for the Heritage Award and the Vicki Clarke Family Business of the Year Award. The Heritage Award recognizes a family business that was founded more than 75 years ago while the Vicki Clarke Family Business of the Year is given in memory of Vicki Clarke, a former advisory board member of the Prairie Family Business Association.

This year’s recipient of the Heritage Award was the Brockelsby Family of Reptile Gardens. Founded in 1937, and still under ownership of the same family, the Black Hills’ Reptile Gardens® has steadily grown to one of the leading tourist attractions in the Midwest. Today, Reptile Gardens® hosts more species of reptiles than any other park or zoo in the world. Since its founding, Reptile Gardens® has provided a great entertainment experience for literally millions of visitors.

The second family honored Thursday evening was the recipient of the Vicki Clarke Prairie Family Business of the Year Award, the Thompson Family of H.A. Thompson & Sons. H.A. Thompson & Sons is a fourth generation family business headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota, in the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and mechanical rehabilitation industry. Starting with the lone founder Harry A. Thompson, the business has grown to 86 employees at 5 locations. The company has a history of financially supporting community groups and causes including the public schools, the symphony, the aquatics center and much more. In 2016, H.A. Thompson & Sons made a $500,000 gift benefitting Sanford Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Bismarck.

Also announced at the conference, Prairie Family Business Association has successfully reached their one million dollar mark for the endowment fund. Private gifts have contributed to this one million dollar endowment. Funds will be used to grow Prairie Family Business, reach more family businesses, and increase the quality and quantity of education programs.

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