Looking for festive activities to make the most of this holiday season? You don’t have to travel out of state. According to our friends at the South Dakota Department of Tourism, there’s plenty to do from Hill City to Sioux Falls to enhance your holidays.
As you drive across the countryside this winter, you may notice many fields are covered with soybean and corn stalks. The farm families who grow two of the state’s top crops didn’t decide to wrap up harvest early. It’s a sustainable practice called “no till” that’s a growing trend to help protect the environment.
Not all soil types are suited for no till, but for those farmers who can use it, no till is a simple but powerful tool. After harvesting the crops, farmers leave the stalks and plant roots in the field. There’s no reason to till since those stalks and roots help keep the soil from blowing around throughout the winter. By spring, the plant material breaks down and feeds the soil so it’s ready to grow another season of healthy crops. This is just one way South Dakota farm families are improving their farm’s sustainability to preserve the land and continue growing quality foods for the future.
A road trip across South Dakota is one of the best ways to witness agriculture in our state. From observing sustainable practices like no till farming to identifying the different types of crops, traveling for the holidays is one way we can all get closer to our food. In case you needed an excuse to plan your next road trip, here are the best holiday activities South Dakota has to offer.
Christmas in the Capital, Pierre. Light up your holidays with a visit to the state capital surrounded by the magic of 90 custom designed Christmas trees. Christmas in the Capital kicked off November 21, but is open daily through December 26.
Holiday Open House, Volga. Experience the joy of the season at Schadé Vineyard’s holiday open house in Volga. Held the first Saturday in December, the event features complimentary wine tasting, food pairings and live music. It’s a perfect place to meet your girlfriends and enjoy some retail therapy in the gift shop.
Frontier Christmas, Lake City. Step into the boots of South Dakota’s pioneers and experience an authentic frontier Christmas at historic Fort Sisseton in Lake City. With make-and-take craft stations, handmade decorations, treats and caroling, your family will create long-lasting memories by reflecting on the past.
Holiday Express, Hill City. Take a ride on the 1880 holiday express train from scenic Hill City all the way to the North Pole. With hot chocolate and a sugar cookie in hand, travel in comfort while listening to a special story. Santa even makes an appearance to deliver gifts to the littlest passengers. Seating is limited so book your tickets soon for this magical ride.
Winter Wonderland, Sioux Falls. Enjoy a sparkling winter wonderland at Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls. Whether you walk or drive, make plans to climb to the top of the five-story viewing tower for a 360-degree view of 350,000+ lights on 271 trees and 273 light poles. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, book a twilight helicopter flight of the park with Strawbale Winery in Renner.
No matter how you choose to spend your holidays, they’re sure to be memorable if you’re with family and friends. Ever wonder what farmers do during the winter months? Here’s a clue: They aren’t just watching Netflix. Learn more by reading this, then let us know which South Dakota holiday activity is your favorite in the comments below.
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.
Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.