Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Freeman,S. D. - The little town that could

Freeman, S. D. © Judy Wells
They may not look like much driving through but small towns in the Sioux Falls, SD, area have surprises and charm galore. The best part for Levelers is that steep hills are few and stairs are limited to a few steps. Freeman was my favorite.

Freeman is a community of German Mennonites, Hutterites and a Scandinavian or three amid gently rolling prairies. Lots of farming here but that's not what impresses.

A happy Schmeckfest consumer. From the Schmeckfest website.
First, for 53 years, this town of 1,200 or so has been feeding 1,000 visitors a night for four nights at its annual spring Schmeckfest, a tasting of Russian German foods and demonstrations of how they are made. From the first year, interest and demand for tickets have stunned residents until the point they limited tickets and extended the number of nights. A ticket to a Freeman Schmeckfest is as hard to find as one to a Green Bay Packers home game.

As if that weren't enough, it is accompanied by a full-scale musical. Past efforts have ranged from the Mikado to The Sound of Music

In 2013, Schmeckfest is scheduled for March 15, 16, 22 and 23 with tickets going on sale this month (November). Fiddler on the Roof is the musical production.

Entering the Prairie Arboretum. © by Judy Wells.
Then a few visionaries decided what their town needed was an arboretum and outdoor amphitheater for concerts. So they built one.

Gazebo. © by Judy Wells
The Prairie Arboretum is an idyllic 40-acre spot with original sculpture and gazebo, surrounded by a stream that connects a pair of stocked lakes.

First look inside Heritage Hall. © by Judy Wells
That blended nicely with the Heritage Hall Museum and Archives, a cavernous - 24,000-square-foot facility filled with more than 20,000 examples of pioneer life from tools and farm equipment to native wildlife displays and household items.
A few of the cars inside. © by Judy Wells

A few farm vehicles. © by Judy Wells

Diamond Valley School. © by Judy Wells
Surrounding it are restored buildings - pioneer homes, a schoolhouse and churches.

Looking over the Archives room. © by Judy Wells
The Archives is a researcher's dream with more than 10,000 books, periodicals, documents and photos on and of the area's immigrant families. Also on hand, two 17th century Luther translations of the Bible.

Sioux saddle used in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. © by Judy Wells
The gems of the museum are the 450-plus rare items on display in the Plains Indian Artifacts Exhibit. During the two-week Good Girls in the Badlands road trip fellow travel writer/photographer Debi Lander and I took through the Dakotas this summer, we saw just about every Plains Indian collection on display, and this was the best, easily beating out those in universities and state museums. That a town the size of Freeman has this is remarkable.
Ghost Dance shirt. © by Judy Wells

We could have spent hours here. You may want to do the same, so save time for a bit of whimsy.
Picture yourself as Grant Wood might have. © by Judy Wells

What else is in Freeman? A golf course with a popular restaurant, Dave's Grille, and the annual QuiltFest, a two-day show with demonstrations and food on the Freeman Academy Campus.

Hutterite communal kitchen and dining room. © by Judy Wells
There are several Hutterite communities in the Freeman area and tours can be arranged in advance by calling 888-595-9755 or 605-925-4444. The Hutterites, who believe in communal living - "having all things in common," as the passage in Acts goes - are an offshoot like the Mennonites and Amish of the Anabaptist movement of 16th century Radical Reformation.
The residential area of a Hutterite community. © by Judy Wells

Leia Mais…
Monday, November 5, 2012

Sioux Falls, SD.: A lot to see

Sioux Falls were greatly diminished by the drought.
The drought of 2012 may have turned the Big Sioux River Falls that gave South Dakota's largest city its name into a relative dribble, but between downtown Sioux Falls' public sculpture and galleries, the museums and nearby towns there are plenty of other things to make a visit worthwhile.

Tip: Best of all, unless otherwise noted, there are no steep hills or long stairways.

"Daughters of Peace" by Benjamin Victor.
Start with downtown. It's lively, attractive and walking around is a joy thanks to the annual SculptureWalk.

A couple takes a look at Jerry McKellar's "Huckleberry Daze."
Each year 55 or so sculptures by a variety of artists are placed around town in front of sponsors who pay $1,000 for the privilege. During the exhibit, viewers vote on their favorites and the People's Choice is purchased by the city. Companies and individuals may buy or lease works as well, adding to the city's ambiance.

"Generation Slaps" by Matt Miller.
The concept has caught on; the University of Sioux Falls now stages its own annual Sculpture Walk, unveiling 12 works throughout its campus.

Another source of fascinating art is Prairie Star Gallery, an extensive collection of work by Dakota, Nakota and Lakota peoples. Owner Linda Boyd is a font of knowledge as is her staff. Ask them about the Plains culture and prepare to be fascinated.

Linda Boyd at her Prairie Star Gallery.
One piece, a Horse Dance Stick by Gayle Rencountre, spoke to me the moment I walked in and I had to find out more.

According to Linda, horses were vital to the Plains people, partners in buffalo hunts that made it possible to feed, clothe and protect their families. Carved horse sticks were used in the Horse Dance, designed to protect these invaluable four-legged family members.

Horse Dance Stick by Gayle Rencountre.
Here's what Linda wrote about the horse stick that now has pride of place on my living room wall.

A Crow Creek Lakota, Gayle is a large tall stoic Lakota in his late 40's, who is also known as Coyote Creations, when he does silver jewelry. This horse dance stick was done in time of drought so quite a few images of lightening strikes and rain drops and hail are asking for rain so that 4-leggeds (animals, represented by the carving and horse hair) and 2-leggeds (birds, represented by feathers), and people-- all survive.
    The horse is painted red to represent the good red road and good journey in life, as well as later journey to the spirit world, represented by the hand that connects us to past generations and welcomes the future ones, and the circling of the eyes so the horse can see better into the spirit world, when the time comes, to enter that world. There  are also square hoof prints representing horses that have gone already to the spirit world.  Lakota believe that the star world is where spirits reside before birth and where elders live after they leave this earth. Therefore, the star world is most important in our lives to gain full wisdom.
      Note too the horse hooves are painted bright dark with stylistic stars to say that we need to take care of our oceans and Grandfather sky. Stars represent star knowledge and the fact as a middle generation, we need to look to the star world for better understanding. If we respect the 3 generations before and after us, the world is a better place, more in balance, according to Lakota belief.
    The mid body grandma's mix of beads is primarily blue blues, again to represent Father Sky and the Oceans, Green for Mother Earth and red for the good journey.  The brass beads show passage of time. The mini shield is a further prayer & protection  asking for life-giving rain. 

Center for Western Studies.
The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College is another place to learn of the Plains Indian culture as well as that of the Scandinavians who settled here.
Part of the Plains culture exhibits.
Part of the Scandinavian culture exhibit.

What do you do when the battleship USS South Dakota, the most decorated ship of World War II, is decommissioned and you have no body of water large enough to float her in?
Establish the South Dakota Battleship Memorial and build an outline of the ship in concrete around the bridge.
It's quite popular with the youngsters and is a beloved addition to Sherman Park where you also find the Great Plains Zoo and the Delbridge Museum of Natural History, the Amateur  Softball Association of America Hall of Fame, Indian Burial Mounds and nine lighted softball diamonds.
An exhibit in the Delbridge Museum of Natural History which houses 150 animal mounts.

Falls Park has been the focus of the city's recreation from the beginning. Walks, picnic areas and an observation tower have been added as has the Falls Overlook Cafe in a replica of the original hydroelectric plant. Nightly sound and light shows and a holiday lighting display keeps residents coming back.

Tip: There are stairs here and low hills but they aren't too bad.
Falls Park.

If you've always wondered about fishing, hunting, camping, outdoor cooking, canoeing, kayaking or any of the other outdoor activities that Dakotans love, Outdoor Campus is where to head.
Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus.

The staff here will show you what it's like and teach you how to do it.

Walk through the big fish to the exhibits beyond and prepare to be educated. Amble through the gardens and be one with nature.

Leia Mais…