25th Annual Prairie Family Business Conference Boasts Record Attendance

The Prairie Family Business Association hosted its 25th annual conference March 30-31.

Sioux Falls, S.D. – The 25th annual Prairie Family Business Conference boasted record attendance last week at the region’s premier family business education and networking event.

The Prairie Family Business Association recognized two 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.

The spotlighted 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.

The Prairie Family Business Association also announced it has successfully reached their one million dollar mark for their endowment fund through private gifts. Funds will be used to grow the Prairie Family Business, reach more family business and increase the quality and quantity of education programs.

Prairie Family Business Association was founded in 1993 as a South Dakota family business initiative through the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business with the mission of enhancing the long-term survival and success of its family business members.

For additional details or information about the recent 25th Annual Prairie Family Business Conference, visit the event webpage or call Executive Director, Stephanie Larscheid at 605-274-9530.


USD's Beacom School of Business was established in 1927 and has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949. The leading business school in the region, Beacom’s programs are consistently ranked among the top business schools in the nation by Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and others for its high-quality learning experience, student success, affordability, and high-caliber of faculty and students. Whether a student chooses face-to-face or online courses, Beacom’s programs emphasize real-world experience through professional organizations, quality internships and capstone projects.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News