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Archive for south dakota

Beneath the Plains

By Linda Tancs

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site preserves two facilities that were once part of a Minuteman Missile field that covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. The only National Park Service unit specifically designated for the Cold War, the park’s enabling legislation states that Minuteman Missile’s purpose is “to interpret the historical role of the Minuteman II missile defense system as a key component of America’s strategic commitment to preserve world peace and in the broader context of the Cold War.” Ranger-guided tours of Launch Control Facility Delta-01 and the underground Launch Control Center are conducted throughout the year, but the elevator taking visitors down to the underground control center can only hold six visitors at a time. Fifteen miles west of the visitor center is the Delta-09 missile silo, where visitors can see a Minuteman II missile in the silo.

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History in Rapid City

By Linda Tancs

Memorial Park is the pulse of Rapid City, South Dakota. A typical family-friendly public park on Rapid Creek, you might be surprised to learn that it’s also home to one of America’s largest Berlin Wall exhibits. The wall segment, formerly located between Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie from 1961 to 1989, was donated in honor of the citizens of Ratingen, Germany (the sister city of Vermillion, South Dakota), who fostered German-American relations.

Preserving Native American Culture

By Linda Tancs

Located along the banks of the Missouri River in Chamberlain, South Dakota, the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center tells the unique stories of the Lakota Indian tribe from the perspective of both the past and the present. An educational outreach program of St. Joseph’s Indian School, the museum strives to preserve and promote the Lakota (Sioux) culture through art, artifacts and educational displays that depict the proud heritage of the Lakota people. Admission to the center is free but donations are gratefully accepted.

A Mecca for Music Lovers

By Linda Tancs

The National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, is a menagerie of melodious merriment. Carved crocodile zithers. Goldfish-shaped harmonicas. Strutting stringed peacocks. It’s all there, in addition to the oldest known harpsichord, rare Adolphe Sax-made saxophones, the rarest European pianos and other treasures. Lauded as one of the largest and most important collections of historical instruments in the world, the museum publicly displays 1,200 of its 15,000-strong collection, representing American, European and non-Western instruments from virtually all cultures and historical periods. Open year round, state residents enjoy free admission on federal holidays and summer Sundays.

Tribute to a Mountain Man

By Linda Tancs

Near an unpaved road on the south side of Shadehill Reservoir in northwestern South Dakota stands a tribute to a mountain man. The honoree is Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1800s who was mauled by a grizzly bear and left to die in the wilderness. Luckily for Hugh, his indefatigable spirit set him crawling for 200 miles from the site of the attack to eventual safety (and medical assistance) at Fort Kiowa. A monument marks the spot where the bear attacked. His life is commemorated in the film The Revenant.

The Shrine of Democracy

By Linda Tancs

President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to Mount Rushmore as America’s “shrine of democracy.” Created by famed sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his army of workers, the granite portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln represent the birth, growth, development and preservation of the country. Borglum created an opening called the Hall of Records behind the heads that was intended to house important information on the significance of these four presidents in American history. The chamber was left incomplete at the time of the sculptor’s death but was finished over 50 years later. The Hall of Records houses both original texts and copies of important American documents. Due to its precarious location, public access to the vault is closed, forever to remain a mysterious part of this national treasure. The mountain housing this monumental carving is named for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York City attorney who visited the area in 1885. The park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota near Keystone and draws millions of visitors annually.

Where the Buffalo Roam

By Linda Tancs

South Dakota’s Custer State Park is where the buffalo roam. Nearly 1,300 buffalo—one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the country—roam the park’s prairies and hills. Commonly sighted along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds around the southern edge of the park, you can enjoy a different view of them en masse at tomorrow’s annual Buffalo Roundup. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, feel the clap and thunder of the herd as it’s driven by cowboys and cowgirls in a roundup event that’s actually a critical management tool. Want in on the action? Private citizens have a long tradition participating in the event. An orientation ride takes place today.

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