Monday, September 14, 2009

Road Trip Through Rural Nebraska and South Dakota

Tourism industry professionals don't have many opportunities to gather with their peers for continuing education, but the Upper Midwest Convention and Visitors Bureau annual fall conference is a great event for us. A full day and a half of workshops, seminars and speakers designed to help us do a better job of helping people to have fun!

The states that constitute the "Upper Midwest", at least for the purposes of this conference are Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Personally, I would put NE, SD and ND in the Great Plains, but we all work together for this conference, and it's a good fit.

Half the fun is getting there, and our trip to Sioux Falls South Dakota this year took us up through my favorite part of the Outback - the Nebraska Sandhills.

The fog was pretty thick as we motored out of the Platte River Valley, and stayed that way well past Thedford, about 60 miles north.

As I have mentioned many times before, the Sandhills are beautiful this year, with abundant rain making for lush grasses. The ranchers have all capitalized on this bounty by putting up lots of hay.
A little further on, the fog had lifted and you can get a clearer view of the amazing scenery that we live with every day.

Just south of Valentine, Highway 83 crosses the Niobrara River, one of America's Scenic National Rivers. It's great to tube, canoe, kayak and tank. There's a lot of outfitters in the area that can put together just the right trip for you. As you can see, it is very beautiful.
This is a little bit larger river that we crossed further into our trip. We are on the bridge over the Missouri river in Chamberlain South Dakota. There seems to be some construction going on on the bridge in the distance to the north.
As you drive across I-90 in South Dakota, there are two absolutely must-see's. One is Wall Drug in Wall, SD, which didn't come into play on this trip. The second is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It was right on our way, so we had to stop.
From the Corn Palace website:
The Corn Palace serves as a multi-use center for the community and region. The facility hosts stage shows, as well as sports events in its arena. The World's Only Corn Palace is an outstanding structure which stands as a tribute to the agricultural heritage of South Dakota.

The original Corn Palace, called "The Corn Belt Exposition" was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The third and present building was completed for it first festival at the present location in 1921. The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. The theme is selected by the Corn Palace Festival Committee and murals are designed by a local artist. Come and Experience what the Corn Palace has to offer. Visiting is FREE.
Sounds like a pretty cool place, huh?

Even the inside of the auditorium is decorated with corn murals.
Then it was on to business and our conference in Sioux Falls. On Monday night, after a long day of seminars, workshops and speakers, it was time to relax. A little retail therapy at The Empire Mall, and a great dinner with friends at Braccos, we just had to see the Falls. After all, they just didn't pull the name Sioux Falls out of the sky.
The falls are incredibly spectacular and run right through the heart of Sioux Falls. Over a distance of a mile, they drop about 90 feet in a series of falls.
Here you can see some of the falls in the distance. It was nearly 10:00 p.m., so my photography is kind of iffy. To the left you can see part of a building that once housed the power plant that used the energy of the falls to create electricity.
If you are ever visiting Sioux Falls, which at a population of 120,000 is the largest city in South Dakota, be sure not to miss it's namesake, the actual falls. You'll be glad you did.
I'll be headed back across that great country just after noon today, getting back to North Platte in time to help my friends host a wildly successful North Platte Rail Fest.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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