August 29- August 31, 2021
We leave Sioux City after a raucous band of thunderstorms rolled through last night which included three tornado signatures just south of us. No damage was reported until the Lennox High School staff arrived the next morning to find the roof on one school’s buildings was missing.
Sooo, where’s an interesting place to visit today? Ahh, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD (15,000 souls)! The Palace has been on our must see list for a while and I’ll tell you, it is worth seeing. The palace was conceived as a gathering place in 1892 where city residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival with extraordinary stage entertainment – a celebration to climax a crop-growing season and harvest.
This tradition continues today with the annual Corn Palace Festival held in late August each year. The concept is so successful that the first two were outgrown, the current building constructed in 1921.The outside of the building is clothed in corn stalks, much of which are made into murals.
The inside of the auditorium has a lot of “corn” art decorating the walls. We got lucky to visit today as a street fair was going on and a “Cowboy” church service was being attended by folks on the inside.
The decision was made to overnight at American Creek Campground, Chamberlain (2300 souls). The town is located adjacent to Interstate 90 on the east bank of the Missouri River. It’s the site of St. Josheph’s Indian School, established and operated by the Catholic order Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1927. Near town is the soaring sculpture of Dignity of Earth and Sky which stands on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River within the busy Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Dignity stands 50′ tall and is made of hundreds of pieces of stainless steel. She holds a star quilt made of 128 diamonds in colors of water and sky. Dignity honors the Native Nations of the Great Plains. If we ever come back to Chamberlain we’d like to visit the Akta Lakota Museum and maybe the Old West Trading Post.
OK, on to Peer. For all you smart fellers out there yes, I’m messing with you. We are visiting Pierre, South Dakota’s state capital. Us Renoites would pronounce the city’s name P-air, the locals pronounce it Peer. Pierre is a city of nearly 14,000 souls and does double duty as the seat of Hughes County. It’s the second least populous state capital in the US and the eighth most populous city in South Dakota. The city was designated as the state capital in 1889 when SD gained statehood.
Fort Pierre located across the Missouri River from Pierre has been a permanent settlement since 1817. It is the oldest white settlement in South Dakota and once the largest trading post on the Upper Great Plains. The fort was named after Pierre Chouteau, a major fur trader from St. Louis.
Pierre’s development was also influeced by the construction of the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad. It increased access to markets for regional products and passenger transportation. Despite the railroad, Pierre is somewhat isolated as far as state capitals go. It’s one of four state capitals that is not served by an interstate highway. Unlike the other three, the city has no expressway. Just upriver river is Lake Oahe, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.
We spend a lot of time in our home for two nights, Farm Island State Recreation Area. The park is a delight with large grassy campsites adjacent to Hipple Lake, an arm of the Missouri River. In addition to the wonderful campground it offers a spacious day use area complete with a small beach, boat launch ramp, walking paths, an archery range and a visitors center.
Although we had visited last year we chose to spend more time in downtown Pierre. As we were admiring a couple of bronze sculptures a man came out of his business establishment to explain that they were of past governors. They cost $73,000 apiece and all but three have been completed. Local artisans have been commissioned to create the works of art. The completed sculptures have been placed in strategic locations around the city. When funding is available the set will be completed.
We didn’t go into the capitol building as the legislature is in session. We drove around the residential areas admiring some of the most beautiful homes that we’ve ever seen. Jil got her flu shot at Walgreens and a visit to the market completed our stay. Tomorrow we head to Spearfish for an extended six night stay.