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19 Aug 2016

Smooth Traveler: South Dakota’s Southeastern Cultural Corridor (Part One)

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August 19, 2016 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Redlin Art Gallery

By Renée S. Gordon

People around the globe tend to be most familiar with the western region of South Dakota, famous for the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore and the rugged scenery of the Badlands. Visitors who confine themselves to the region west of the Missouri, the boundary between East and West, miss not only the expansive prairie but also a plethora of sites and attractions that are culturally unique.

The earliest inhabitants of the region were Paleo-Indians who arrived around 11,000-years ago. The French claimed the land in 1742 and Lewis and Clark claimed it for the US in 1804. Non-native settlement took off in the 1870s after gold was discovered in the Black Hills and in 1890 South Dakota achieved statehood.

The state has designated a 153-mile portion of Interstate 29 as the South Dakota Cultural Corridor. Arrayed along the route are four cities that provide visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture, history, heritage and outdoor experiences the state has to offer.

Watertown, surrounded by 16 glacial lakes boasts natural, stunning, scenery. It was established in 1879 and named in honor of a town in New York. The Downtown area is filled with artistic scenery in the form of 11 original sculptures.

Redlin Art Gallery interior

Redlin Art Gallery interior

The city’s most renowned attraction is the Redlin Art Center, home to the art of Terry Redlin, America’s most popular artist for nine years. He was born in Watertown in 1937, and as a teenager suffered a crippling motorcycle incident that qualified him for an art scholarship. Redlin painted in a unique style called, “romantic realism,” that highlights regional family and childhood stories. Characteristic of his work is the use of only three colors, cyan, magenta and yellow, and the brilliant use of light. The collection includes 150 original works. Redlin donated the Redlin Art Center and the 30-acre surrounding Conservation Park and Wildlife Refuge.

Goss Opera House is Watertown’s premier venue for concerts and weddings, as well as dining, in Charley’s Restaurant and imbibing in the Crossroads Bar. Charley’s is the only  “AAA 3 Diamond Award” winning restaurant in this type of historic setting. The 3-story edifice was built in 1888 with retail stores at ground level and an ornate opera house on the upper levels that still retains many original architectural elements. Goss Opera House is believed to be haunted and has been investigated by paranormal professionals. The most prominent ghost is that of a woman who lived there after the 3rd-floor became apartments. She died after her son set her ablaze and the room bears marks of the fire.

McCrory Garden overview

McCrory Garden overview

Joy Ranch is an awesome facility situated on Lyle Lake that includes 16-themed accommodations, an 1880s prairie town street with western facades, the 1886 Little Church on the Prairie, trail rides, riding arena, 120-acres to hike and throughout the ranch there are displays of authentic artifacts.

The truly unique aspect of Joy Ranch’s commitment to healing and service to the underserved. Camp Chance, on-site, serves people with physical and learning disabilities and provides life-enhancing experiences. Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and victims of sexual abuse are invited to participate in programs that incorporate the healing power of horses. Scholarships are available for participants as well as caregivers so that those who wish to profit from the camp experience can. There is even a Grandparents Camp, the ranch was designed to be completely ADA accessible. I encourage anyone who might benefit from this experience to check out the website.

In less than an hour you arrive in Brookings, a city named after Wilmot Brookings, one of the first Europeans in the area. In 1881, an agricultural college was founded, now South Dakota State University. Modern Brookings has one of the “Top 10 Main Streets in the USA.” The Downtown Urban Art Canvas Project, a series of large murals depicting significant events and people, and the 17-block University Residential District Tour provide a good overview of the history and architecture.

Art Walk Humpty Dumpty

Art Walk Humpty Dumpty

The Children’s Museum of South Dakota is a 44,000-sq. ft. delight set on 4-acres of prairie. Inside, children walk down Kid Street and select from a host of experiential activities. On the exterior, kids can participate in an archeological dig or visit life-sized animatronic T-Rex dinosaurs, Mama and baby Max.

The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum is the place to go to learn about the state’s   rural heritage. The museum is small but comprehensive, and includes dioramas including a prairie shanty. The gift shop is spectacular and carries rare Native American teas.

Seven thousand objects are in the collection of the South Dakota Art Museum, including the largest Harvey Dunn collection and the most extensive collection of Marghab Linens in the world. Currently a special exhibition, “Lakota Emergence,” is being presented until Ociober 17th.  The included objects are singular in design and provocative in their provenance.

McCrory Gardens and South Dakota Arboretum are maintained by SDSU for educational, research and presentation purposes. Among the 25-acres of gardens are three Heritage Gardens that showcase native plants and their use by Native Americans and settlers. Located on site is also a 45-acre arboretum.

The end of this part of the trip requires a stop at the Brookings and SDSU institution, Nick’s Hamburger Shop. It has been the place to see and be seen since 1929. Get a burger, a shake and a Nick’s tee shirt.

In part two we will complete our journey along I-29.

I wish you smooth travels!

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