Story by Twila Schmitt, Public Opinion Correspondent

While Keith Mack isn’t nearly old enough to have attended every year of the Watertown Winter Farm Show’s 72 year history, it’s a safe bet he’s been to more than 50 of them.

Mack, who grew up on a farm near Kranzburg, attended the Watertown Winter Farm Show in his early years along with his parents and nine siblings. As decades passed, his interest in agriculture steadily increased and in 1989, he became more directly involved.

“Gary Mack called me and extended the invitation to join the Ag Committee,” he said. “And the rest, as they say, is history.”

The Watertown Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee, which organizes the annual Watertown Winter Farm Show, honors someone annually who has spent years contributing to its success by dedicating the farm show to their name. This year, the honor goes to Keith Mack of Watertown.

The 72nd Watertown Winter Farm show is scheduled for February 7-11, 2017.

Mack, who has worked for the past 25 years in the ag machinery industry, was the first person hired at Titan Machinery in 2001. With his infectious smile and hearty laugh, he’s turned thousands of customers into friends since that time.

“We needed some young guys to come on board and bring some new blood to the Ag Committee,” said Gary Mack on inviting this year’s honoree to join the Ag Committee back in the late 1980s. “From the beginning, he’s been a hard worker and a good thinker.”

During his term as Ag Committee Chairman in 2003-2004, Mack said the focus was to prepare for the future expansion of the Watertown Winter Farm Show, to optimize the number and variety of booth exhibitors and to promote the farm show to a broader spectrum of people.

“Our goal is still a zest for the best,” he said.

Mack said the Watertown Chamber’s support has been an invaluable part of the Watertown Winter Farm Show’s history and continued growth.

He is pleased with the diverse programming now available and the fact that the Watertown Winter Farm Show continues to draw people from around South Dakota and neighboring states as well. A first day survey of license plates in the parking lot last year showed that every county in South Dakota was represented, he said.

“The Watertown Winter Farm Show has always been a great time to gather,” said Mack. “It’s a unique environment where people can see that latest and greatest.”

“Since the Farm Show’s earliest days, people have come to gain knowledge. Now with the internet and smart phones, the exchange of information is different, but the chance to interact at the Farm Show is still crucial.”

Current Ag Committee Chairman Marc Hoffman said Mack’s long-standing contributions to the Ag Committee and Watertown Winter Farm Show make him a top-notch selection for this year’s honor.

“Keith cares about the long-term success of the Watertown Winter Farm Show. He’s been very involved over the years in making it better and making sure it changes with the times,” said Hoffman. “He’s never hesitated to come when called.”

Mack believes a great part of the Watertown Winter Farm Shows’ 72 successful years hinges on the fact that Watertown remains a regional trade center. Livestock, equipment, machinery and services showcased during the Farm Show are available in the region throughout the year.

Megan Olson, President and CEO of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce agrees and added that attending the Watertown Winter Farm Show has become a tradition for many area families, made possible by decades of volunteer leadership.

“I’ve worked with hundreds of volunteers during my career and Keith Mack is one of the most memorable. He’s such a great advocate, a loyal friend and servant to the organization,” said Olson.

“We could use more people in this world like Keith Mack,” added Olson.

Tradition also dictates that Watertown Winter Farm Show begins each year with the dedication ceremony.

“It’s an elite group of highly respected people,” Mack said of the honorees. “I’m extremely humbled to be included.”

Cindy Mack said that while her husband was not expecting to be selected as the 2017 honoree, she was not surprised when he came home and told her the news.

“This honor recognizes everything he’s worked for over the past 30 years. It means the world to him,” she said.

The Macks have three grown children (Teresa Mack, Andrea Irish and Nicole Pieschke) and seven grandchildren. All are planning to be on hand for the dedication ceremony.

Keeping up with the grandchildren is, in fact, one of Mack’s favorite past times. He shows no signs of slowing down – and plans on being involved with the Ag Committee and the Watertown Winter Farm Show for many more years.

“As we get older, our definition of middle age gets older, too,” he said.

And while he may have outgrown the “young guy” status that first landed him on the Ag Committee, Keith Mack will continue to provide inspiration for future generations.