Eye on KELOLAND: Garretson aglow


GARRETSON, SD (KELO) — When you run a business in a small town, you have to compete with bigger cities for customers. So one community in rural Minnehaha County is borrowing a colorful holiday tradition in Sioux Falls to attract shoppers ready to spend money for Christmas.

People in Garretson see Splitrock Park charged with holiday potential.

“We’ve got extension cords going around, there’s different lights set up in the back of this campsite here,” Carrie Moritz of Grow Garretson said.

Volunteers are tapping into the campsite’s electrical hookups to provide the power that will illuminate holiday lights inside the park and restore a tradition of Christmases past.

“We’ve heard stories before where folks have said we used to have the park all lit-up, we’d see Santa down there, and so the idea is to bring that back again,” Moritz said.

Volunteers with Garretson’s First Bank & Trust have been tasked with decorating the entrance. The display that goes here will entice visitors to check out the rest of the park.

“I’ve got a couple of employees that are very creative and we’re kind of mulling that over right now. I let them handle that. I’m not that creative. They are,” First Bank & Trust branch manager Rod Wolforth said.

Organizers say there’s strong interest among people in the community willing to add their creative touches to the park.

“We’re also planning on decorating a few of the trees down in the park, too. So it’s going to look like we’re probably going all-out, kind of like the Falls Park light-up is,” Moritz said

The Splitrock Park project is a kind of do-it-yourself version of the annual Winter Wonderland light display at Falls Park in Sioux Falls.

“Except to bring the community into doing it, rather than having a company come in and do it, or have the city do it, because we wanted the community to take ownership of the park,” Moritz said.

That ownership extends beyond the city limits. Nearby Palisades State Park also sees benefits of bringing siteseers to this city park.

“Typically, you think of wintertime and Christmas where a lot of people stay indoors. But there’s still a lot of things to do this time of year and hopefully, these events will bring people out and get them outdoors and active,” Palisades State Park Supervisor Luke Dreckman said.

Organizers also hope that this display will light the way for more customers to come to Garretson and do their Christmas shopping here.

“It gives us a chance to highlight our restaurants, our bars, businesses, so I think a lot of that is beneficial to our community,” Wolforth said.

Holiday shopping is already well underway at stores along Garretson’s Main Street. They see a spruced-up Splitrock Park as expanding their customer base by bringing in more out-of-towners.

“Look at the Falls in Sioux Falls. It’s a place we go from here. We have a beautiful falls in our park. We have a lot of people that come in the summer just to see it, see the park, so the Christmas lights should be a huge hit and yes, it should be a draw,” Treasure Chest owner Connie Johnson said.

The park remains a work-in-progress. Volunteers still have most of the rest of this month to finish before flipping the switch and turning their bright idea into a decorative destination.

“We like to shoot high, we’re a small town with big ambitions,” Moritz said.

The holiday light display begins the night of November 28 and will be open every Friday and Saturday night through December 28. For times, click here

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