South Dakota: Day 3

First of all, happy Memorial Day and a huge thank you to all of those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.  Thank you to those currently serving in the armed forces, continuing to protect those freedoms.  And of course, I can’t forget the families who support our military – that’s not something I could do and I appreciate the sacrifices you make, as well.

For me, today was a day of family history.  My mom’s parents are from the towns of Wessington Springs and Woonsocket.  As we drove into town at Wessington Springs (the Jerauld County seat), the sign said the population was only 1,011.  Yep, small.

Our first stop of the day was at the cemetery where we attended a Memorial Day service.  The American Legion post had a special program that included a 7-gun salute, playing of Taps, laying a wreath on a grave and a speech from one of the local school employees (I think it was the principal or superintendent, but I don’t remember for sure).  It was really neat to be a part of the ceremony, along with a large number of the residents of Wessington Springs (I think most of the town was there!).

While we were at the cemetery, we also found the graves of several of our ancestors – my grandfather’s parents, a couple of his siblings, and his mom’s parents (my great-great-grandparents).

After the service we went over to a park for a picnic with some of our relatives.  It was a breezy day, but pretty warm and it was nice to sit and enjoy South Dakota.

We also got a tour of the town that included the school my grandfather attended, the house he lived in as a kid, the county courthouse and the post office.  We also spent some time at Shakespeare Garden and the Anne Hathaway Cottage.  The flowers were gorgeous.  I had a lot of fun taking photos here.

After our tour of Wessington Springs, we drove the short distance to Woonsocket and stopped at the lake that’s fed by an artisan well.  We saw two large swans with their young – the dad was very protective, chasing several of our group away when we tried to get close to take photos of the babies.  We also saw the house my grandfather lived in with my biological grandmother after they got married and where my aunt lived when she was young, before they moved out to California.  Just a few houses down was the house my mom’s mom grew up in!  Talk about living close to your in-laws!  We took a short trip down the main street in town – it was mostly deserted – while my grandfather talked about how this used to be the place where everyone congregated and how they would arrive early to get the best view to gossip about the people as they drove by.  Yep, that’s the small town life for you!

Our next stop was in Mitchell, about 45 minutes away, where we toured the Corn Palace.  I was a little disappointed because, for some reason, I was under the impression that the murals were made of individual corn kernels, not the entire cob sliced vertically.  I think I would have appreciated it a lot more if I hadn’t been expecting something much more extravagant.  It also didn’t look quite as decorated as the earlier palaces did.  It seemed that they used to decorate the entire palace, not just the murals on the sides of the building.  At any rate, it was pretty cool to see, even if it was slightly disappointing.

The theme for 2010 was Transportation Through the Ages and featured murals of various types of transportation, including a boat, train, and even a Segway.  We actually got there just in time because the summer is when they start taking down the old murals and putting up the new ones, in time for their big festival in September/October.

After stopping for gas, we drove back to Plankinton and ate dinner at the little diner next to the hotel and then headed to our rooms to relax before our busy day tomorrow (not sure if there are any NOT busy days on this trip!).


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