Our Fourth of July started with breakfast at a diner in the Badlands that included Sioux frybread with wojapi, a traditional berry dish. While there, we tapped into wifi to do a bit of planning. It was quite a contrast to the days of getting a “trip tik” map from AAA, changing cash over to traveler’s checks, and handing auto bingo cards to the kids. Today it’s Google Maps, Apple Pay, audio books, and movies, and even the dustiest diner has wifi.
The plan was to head a bit out of the way to Wessington Springs, a small town of about a thousand people in the central part of the state. We wanted to see their Running Irons/Cowboy Mounted Shooters horseback riding competition. Neither of us knew what this event even was…which only added to the intrigue (although we were hopeful that it didn’t require all attendees to ride horses and shoot). No matter what it was, we were looking forward to our techno-spontaneity.
We arrived in Wessington Springs just as their Fourth of July parade was starting, with the VFW presenting the colors and the local church choir leading a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The sidewalks were lined with flags and people wearing red, white and blue, and the parade lasted a full 30 minutes. It included a lot of older farm equipment, some fancy cars, some horses, a softball team, and several fire trucks. Each tractor was announced with a year and model, information that seemed quite familiar to the folks around us.
At one point, an antique tractor stalled and halted the parade…but not to worry. A truck driving behind the tractor had a tow line and enough power to haul a tractor up hill. Toto, we are now in South Dakota farm country.
After the parade, we had lunch at the Springs Inn, a classic diner on Main Street (butterscotch pie highly recommended)) before heading over to the horseback competition at the Foothills Rodeo fairgrounds on the edge of town. The horseback competition included some amazingly skilled competitors, and several spectators were scoring the event themselves on small spiral notebooks.
Celebrating the Fourth of July in a small town in South Dakota farm country was memorable to say the least, and the folks in Wessington Springs were quite friendly to the tourists from Virginia. What started as a wacky idea over breakfast quickly became the highlight of our trip.