|One of the corridors at the state capital building this year.|
A tree for breast cancer people on the left.
At home in Lead I was an usher more than once for our festival, held at the Historic Homestake Opera House (HHOH) as one of their regular fund raisers for the place. The Opera House was one of many civic buildings originally built by the Homestake Mine Company to improve the daily lives of the miners and their families.
|Restored Opera House entrance plaza.|
The spaces on the left used to house the pool and recreation areas.
Now they are offices and an art gallery owned by the local Arts Council.
It was quite the place in its day. The opera house was just one space within the community center complex. There was a swimming pool, library and reading room, bowling alley, billiards, meeting spaces and more. The opera house had live performances and well as movies. Over time things deteriorated, and at the end the theater space showed only movies. Lots of people I meet now talk about going there as children / teens to see the movies, and pretty much everyone says the space was kind of dirty and not well kept.
And then the opera house caught fire one afternoon in 1984 and mostly burnt up. People recall the fire. It happened one ordinary afternoon, and people talk about how they watched it from various vantage points. To date no one really knows the cause except that it was ruled not to be arson ... probably something faulty in the electrical system.
The actual structure remained intact, but sat empty and uncared for for many years. In 1995, the spaces were purchased, and restoration and rejuvenation efforts were begun. Now the place is well on the way to being fully restored to its former glory. All the guts have been modernized and brought up to codes and standards. The lobby is pretty well done. The biggest project is now the stage and backstage areas. When you attend things there you clearly see the blackened spaces, but what is not restored yet is all decorative, not functional.
I live just about a block form the opera house, and it's my chosen community volunteer activity right now. I use some of my Sundance experience as a greeter or an usher, but sometimes I have also sold tickets or concessions. I'm willing to do all kinds of other things, but so far have only been asked to work during performances. I would say this is how I have come to meet and get be met by lots of people in the community. I'm surprised now at how many people around town I recognize and who recognize me.
|The restored lobby area of the Opera House|
So, the Festival of Trees at HHOH. This was a multi day open house fund raiser. There were people performing music most of the time, but it background kind of music. Santa was there for a few hours one afternoon for the kids. Concessions were sold, and there were trays of small bites like cookies or cheese and crackers.
Various groups or businesses or organizations sponsored trees. The group decorated their tree, often with a theme related to what the group was about. Other groups who did not have as much money to give sponsored large wreaths and decorated them. And then some people or businesses donated items for a silent auction.
People came and went over the days, viewing the decorations, having small snacks & drinks, visiting with people, bidding on the silent auction items. At the end of the last day there was a live auction for all the trees and wreaths. All the items sold went for more than I could afford to give, but no matter. I guess my contribution was my time and work.
The trees and wreaths were all beautiful, although many people commented that the festival was better in years past. More trees. Bigger trees. More lights, etc etc. etc. Isn't that always the case? I thought the place looked pretty nice! And a good time was had by all.
|The blackened stage and proscenium.|
In January there will be a fundraising event to kick off restoration
of this area, especially the angels.
I skipped equivalent festivals in other nearby towns, but I did make it to the big one, the one held each year inside the state capital building in the capital city, Pierre. It's pronounced "pier" or "peer" although it was named for a French fur trader back in the day. (It's one of those trick names that Americans like to make insider jokes about. Towns and cities all over the place have pronunciations that are not the same as anywhere else. Some that I know about include Berlin, New Hampshire and Hurricane, Utah along with Houston Street in New York City, but there are many, many more.)
|All of December, all day long.|
Christmas at the Capital is another one of those things we do here in South Dakota. Pierre is about 2-4 hours away from everyone because it is in the middle of the state, and we all make pilgrimages there at Christmastime to see the trees inside the capital building. The building is just open all day long and the display is free. And it's beautiful! Really beautiful. Well worth your time.
The whole building is decorated, and it's fun to explore all the nooks and crannies. There are lost of overlooks where you can get perspective on the display as a whole. Again, all the trees and displays are donated by businesses, groups or people. Many trees are decorated by professionals and are just drop dead gorgeous. But then Middle of Nowhere County Head Start will have a tress all done up with ornaments made by three year olds out of popsicle sticks, paper straws, glue and glitter. The link in the previous paragraph shows each of the 2017 trees.
When I lived on the reservation, I went to this event several years as an excursion with friends. It was an event we looked forward to and planned most years. We would make a day of it because we could also do extra shopping at bigger stores (first K-Mart and then the mother ship Walmart) and could eat in "ethic" restaurants ..... Mexican or Italian or Chinese ... which were not available back home. I just have all kinds of good memories for those days spent doing fun things with fun people.
This year I tried to find companions, but everyone was busy doing other things, so early in December when the weather was still unseasonably warm, I just lit out. It's actually a straight road out of Sturgis all the way. Easy, easy driving through ranch country with no real towns at all in between Sturgis and Ft. Pierre. Took me about 3.5 hours including stops in Deadwood and Sturgis for nourishment before really heading out. I had never taken that road. Now I know what it's like, what's there, why you would use it .... easy driving when it's all clear with a few slow downs at crossroads and places that used to be towns, rolling grasslands along the way with only a few trees, mostly planted by long ago settlers.
|Overlooking the main lobby from one of the balconies.|
If you want, you can see more South Dakota photos related to these last two posts here and here.