Thursday, July 28, 2011

day 28, a trip to 1880

You might be wondering what Aaron and I did with the hour we gained from crossing into ye Mountain time zone this morning. It was an easy decision: we took a break mid-ride to stop at the attraction we'd seen advertised for miles (and had heard about from Maddy when we stayed in Minneapolis). 1880 Town is pretty much what you would think it'd be: a constructed town with buildings from the era - livery stable, saloon, barber shop, and so on. It also featured an extensive exhibit of props, photographs and other memorabilia from the 1991 film "Dances With Wolves," starring and directed by none other than Kevin Costner. I believe the production had used some of 1880 Town's old timey goods or scenery, hence the pride by affiliation. The animals pictured above were all featured in 1880 Town. Yes, donkeys, kittens and a camel. I'm no historian, so I'll just assume the good folks at 1880 Town know exactly what they're talking about. As we left 1880 Town, Aaron (who spent much of our visit there fretting about getting too much mud in the cleats of his bike shoes) remarked that we'd pretty much paid $9 each for me to get to coo at kittens. I have no problem with this.

I've been thinking about how good South Dakota seems to be at this whole tourism thing. A state known for its wide open spaces, many of their attractions have literally come into existence by making something out of nothing, then convincing people it's worth seeing. This goes for 1880 Town, the Corn Palace, even for Mount Rushmore (which we won't be seeing, alas). And it certainly goes for the town of Wall, which we'll be passing through tomorrow morning. More on that then.
In a way, I guess any tourist attraction has this element of marketing wrapped up in it. But so many of the attractions around where I've spent my years were there before they were attractions. That's the difference. But this isn't to speak ill of how things are here. I'm happy to buy into it, at least while I'm passing through. The prairie dogs I fawned over today, for instance, were actually an "attraction" that was part of a gas station and convenience store. "Come see real prairie dogs for FREE" billboards had declared for miles in the kitschy style so much here has. I wonder about the degree of irony, if any, involved in all this. It probably doesn't matter - those operating these places want the people who find the "Dances With Wolves" exhibit hilarious as much as they want those who find it impressive. $9 is $9, after all.

"All this said, South Dakota certainly doesn't forget its open spaces. More on that in my next post.
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