Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: Things We Do In South Dakota, Part 2, Festivals of Trees

One of the corridors at the state capital building this year.
A tree for breast cancer people on the left.
I never realized how much of a "thing"  a "Festival of Trees" is until I lived in South Dakota. I imagine lots of places have them, although I do not recall actually attending any except in SoDak. But here, they really are something. Every little place seemed to have one this December, and it's clear these things are traditions in all those towns and cities.

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.
I had the best time, even though I was alone. The drive was like gliding. The capital trees were as beautiful as I remember. I walked around the area by the capital along with a lot of fellow citizens and felt refreshed. I drove home via a different route and saw more places I had never been before. It was a real good day.

If you want, you can see more South Dakota photos related to these last two posts here and here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: Things We do in South Dakota, part 1

Sock Monkey was so impressed with Dignity
Wow! Two months since I last wrote. I've been thinking about needing to do another post soon, but you know how it goes. One thing after another after another, and next a whole season is gone.

Part of what I did in the fall was to travel, and that's what I plan to write about. I have several posts in my my mind, but let's start with this one which involves two different trips, with stop-offs in places well known in South Dakota.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: Historic Hotels in Billings and Buffalo

Cody Wyoming is a gateway to Yellowstone

I had this idea to take a four day trip out to Cody Wyoming and back. Cody is a nice town, not far from Yellowstone. I went through there on my trip to Yellowstone, but didn't stop to check it out. I was thinking that 2 nights and a full day might be a good idea. They have both a yarn shop and a couple of breweries there, and the trip goes through the very scenic Big Horn Mountains.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: North Dakota, Because it is There

September turned out to be a month a lot like April-May of this year. I started doing some short trips and just kept going. And I'm not done yet because I'll be heading home to Illinois in a few days while it is still September.

One of my water exercise lady friends found a great cat sitter for me. Ms Jean is a retired school teacher who lives in town, has several pets herself and was up for the gig. She has lived here all her life and drives a Jeep. She told me not to worry at all if the weather should turn bad while I am away (which I'm sure it will some days); she's on it and has a lifetime of experience, plus that Jeep, that will get her out and about no matter what. OK then.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: South Dakota and Beyond

Smokey Rose knew right away how to get comfy in our
Black Hills home.
Smokey Rose and I are now living in our home in the Black Hills. We no longer have a place in Salt lake, just this little condo of ours. We arrived here around July 1 and spent most of July "moving in." Of course this place was fully furnished and all, but I brought with a carload and a pickup truck load of boxes of things that had to be integrated with everything that was already here. A lot of it was clothes, books and craft supplies. There were also some kitchen things, a bit of artwork and some misc things plus stuff like food, cleaning supplies, other consumables such as office supplies. We are mostly done except for the boxes with papers in them. That can wait to be sorted through until a rainy or snowy day comes along.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels "Home" to Chicago

So many interesting buildings in Chicago!
You tell me what we have here. I don't know.
My last two short trips before I left Utah were to big cities, Chicago and Denver. I went to both for kind of business reasons, but did my best to enjoy each. I didn't succeed in doing everything that I had in mind, but both trips had real highlights.

Chicago was first, in order to attend the annual meeting of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, my professional tribe for my lifetime. I became a lifetime member this year even because they put in a special category for us retired folks. Several people have asked why do I want to keep going to work related things now that I'm retired? Well, midwifery is, for me anyway, am identity or a calling, not just work that I did. I'll probably never practice midwifery again, but I am a midwife until the day I die.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands: Le Tour d'Idaho

Idaho is a good place to visit!
Idaho is an underrated state, I think. I mean what does anybody know about it besides famous potatoes and white supremacists, if you're old enough? It's shaped funnily what with that real skinny part at the top which seems like all it does is to separate Montana from Washington for no apparent reason. I imagine that if you drive it through the pan handle from Montana to Washington, Idaho must be a big yawn. Or a tiny blink. "Oh, did we just go through another state? I guess we did. Oh well."

But Idaho is right on top of Utah, and people from Utah go there from time to time, not just when they are driving through to Oregon or Washington. Fly fisher people know it as a kind of paradise. It has more natural hot springs than any other state (who knew?).

And they say that Boise is "the new Asheville".... or that Boise is a trendy place to live now that all the other places are "filled up" and maybe even "spoiled." Like Prescott Arizona, Boise shows up regularly now on lists of good places to live for a variety of reasons.

So a visit to Boise and therefore surrounding areas in Idaho has been on my list for some time now. Time was getting short in Utah for me, and I just decided to do it NOW. I told my knitting friends of my plans. Two originally signed on to go with, but one cancelled, so it ended up being my friend J and I taking this trip. J drove her car which was fine with me.