SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota Highway 34 is not the most traveled highway in the state but there are sections that get about 1,000 vehicles a day.
An initiative born in a conversation between three women in Wessington Springs aims to increase that traffic.
Loree Gaikowski, the Wessington Springs chamber and economic development director, recently launched the “Discover More on Highway 34” campaign as a way to promote the east to west highway to visitors and travelers.
“I have a great visions of this campaign,” Gaikowski said.
She, Kristi Hein, and Heather Larson, two women who work and/or own businesses in Wessington Springs, believe a campaign that unifies cities and businesses along Highway 34, will be an economic boost and capture the interest of travelers and possibly, people who may relocate to the region.
The campaign is just starting. Gaikowski said she hasn’t even been able to contact each city on the roughly 429 mile stretch of highway that starts at the Minnesota border in the east and ends at the Wyoming border on the west.
Gaikowski said she’s spoken with the South Dakota Department of Tourism. “They are 100% supportive,” she said.
A campaign such as “See more on Highway 34” fits in well with state tourism, said Katlyn Svendsen, the director of global media and public relations for South Dakota tourism.
“What we’re finding is that people are always interested in rural areas,” Svendsen said. “We’ve been been finding this more in the last 12 months.”
Tourists are looking to take “the roads less traveled,” Svendsen said.
Travelers who take Highway 34 will have plenty to see and experience, Gaikowski said.
A most unusual pool
Woonsocket is a town of about 750 in between Madison and Wessington Springs.
Would be visitors should know “that we have a beautiful lake in the middle of (town),” said Woonsocket’s city finance director Tara Weber.
Lake Prior draws those who want to fish or paddle canoes and kayaks. The lake likely has one of the most unusual lake features in the nation.
Weber said there is a swimming pool inside the lake. It’s a chlorine pool with a wall to keep pool water in and lake water out.
Weber said when she moved with her family to Woonsocket 22 years ago, she began to push for an outdoor pool. The lake was drained to build the 80 by 80-foot pool.
“I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get all the permits,” Weber said.
The outdoor pool was completed in the early 2000s.
The lake is a focal point as a campground is next to it. The city also built a replica of the town’s former artesian well that once shot water 100 feet in the air, Weber said.
The replica fountain shoots water and lights up at night, she said.
Feed, seed, fuel and food
Mac’s Corner has been in Jeff Ellsworth’s family since 1959.
He and his wife Lori just bought the business near the intersection of Highway 34 and 47, west of Wessington Springs, from his parents who had bought from his grandparents in 1972.
Sometimes, when out of state visitors are traveling in rural South Dakota with Svendsen they will ask her where people live and where they get groceries.
Residents near Highway 34 may not live at Mac’s Corner but they can get their groceries there.
Mac’s Corner also sells ag supplies like feed, seed and fencing.
Ellsworth said the business has local customers but after 60 years, Mac’s Corner is getting customers who grandparents may have shopped there. And there are repeat traveling customers.
The West Bend Recreation Area campground, near the Missouri River, is about 20 miles west of Mac’s Corner. Campers frequently shop at Mac’s Corner, he said.
Two lakes and more
Madison is about 35 miles east of the Highway 34 border with Minnesota and boosts two lake connections in Lake Herman and Lake Madison.
Courtney Storm, the marketing coordinator for the Madison Chamber, said the lakes offer lots of year-round recreation, but the city has more.
The downtown has a variety of shops as retail and similar options have grown with the city population in the past several years ago, Storm said.
A summer concert series was started four years ago. A six week series of Tuesday evening concerts include games for kids and other activities in downtown Madison.
The concert series as provided a way for the lake residents and city residents to mesh, Storm said.
On Sept. 11, Madison will have South Dakota’s only bacon festival, Storm said.
While Madison has those lakes, including a third in nearby Brant Lake, it’s also surrounded by ag fields.
“With Madison being so agriculturally abased, it just makes sense,” Storm said of a bacon festival.
Madison may have its first bacon festival this September but Svendsen said there are many agritourism opportunities that fit along Highway 34. The tourism department is working to develop those options for people who want to learn more about agriculture and rural living, she said.
The state’s tourism department promotes the 175-mile stretch between Pierre and Sturgis as Raptor Alley.
“It’s long been known by it’s nickname Raptor Alley,” Svendsen said.
It’s common to see eagles, hawks and other raptors on this stretch of Highway 34.
The South Dakota tourism website said a person could see as many as 50 raptors in one day.
Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway
It’s that writer Shakespeare but not the Anne Hathaway of the Princess Dairies movies. But rather, Shakespear’s wife.
The two literature figures made an impression on a Wessington Springs couple.
Gaikowski said the city used to have a college. A professor and his wife visited England and she “fell in love” with an Anne Hathaway thatched roof cottage.
A thatched roof cottage was built in Wessington Springs. A flower garden on the grounds is known as the Shakespeare Garden.
“It’s the only thatched roof (house) in South Dakota,” Gaikowski said.
Hills, curves, flatlands
“For me, it’s the scenery,” Gaikowski said of an overall attraction of traveling Highway 34. “You really see the depth of South Dakota.”
“What I see when I travel is all the farmland,” Storm said of the horizon near Madison.
“Twenty-five miles to the west you are driving right along the river,” Ellsworth said.
Gaikowski said the rolling hills near Wessington Springs are another contrast to the flatter lands of farm fields to the east and prairie west of Pierre.
Svendsen said it’s all those landscape features that travelers will seek when they leave major roadways.
Motorcycles have long been known to take roads less traveled.
Motorcycleroads.com has a page dedicated to Highway 34. Some of the reviews praise the long sweeping curves and scenery. Another praised the hills. While a third cited the town of Woonsocket.
Motorcyclists use the highway on their way to Sturgis.