NORA, S.D. (KELO) – As the holidays approach, it’s a time for traditions and celebrations. But with the pandemic, people and organizations are making adjustments to keep people safe. That’s the case for one holiday attraction in rural Union County.
Nora is home to only a handful of people, but the population grows every year during Christmas time.
People from near and far travel to the Nora Store to take part in an annual holiday tradition.
For 30 years, Mike Pedersen has welcomed people here to sing Christmas carols.
“I was given the pipe organ, I was in the right place at the right time, and acquired the instrument and assembled it,” caretaker of Nora Store, Mike Pedersen said. “In the fall of 1989, this is what I got, and I realized I’d been blessed, and being a single guy back then I thought there isn’t anyone to share the blessing with so I told the guys let’s put an ad in the paper and they thought it was a little bit eccentric, and Christmas of 89, the rest is history.”
Every year this small town shop draws hundreds of people.
“Last year it was packed out the front door and out through the kitchen and out through the back door, wall to wall, standing room only,” Pedersen said.
But as COVID-19 continues to impact the country and the state, Pedersen is having to make adjustments.
“This year I’m just going to open up to private groups, small groups, by appointment and they’re responsible for their own conduct and they’re aware masks are a necessity,” Pedersen said.
He wants to keep the Christmas spirit alive, especially during these unprecedented times.
“As people gather together and begin to sing, all of a sudden you develop a sense of community in this little place and I see a lot of tears, touches a lots of people hearts, so my joy is to try to give the gift that keeps on giving as long as I am able,” Pedersen said.
Karen Kratochvil is Pedersen’s cousin. She was coming to Nora Store long before Mike started the tradition.
“Growing up just a mile and a half from here, we would walk by here when we walked to Nora School,” cousin, Karen Kratochvil said. “It was a pretty cool place because they had some groceries and I recall in the center where they had a big stand that had bread on it and rolls and things like that and all the canned goods were along the back here.”
She’s continued to come here over the years to take part in the holiday tradition.
“Bring all kinds of people here, I’ve brought my family, my kids, and tell everybody about have you been to Nora for Christmas, you have to go to Nora for Christmas, it’s really part of it,” Kratochvil said.
She says even though this year will look different, she encourages people to consider coming out in small groups.
“Bring some of your family, your cousins, a couple neighbors, whatever it might be, it’s still possible to come, it’s important, to me it’s like Christmas isn’t Christmas until we’ve been to Nora,” Kratochvil said.
“When I started 30 years ago they were little kids, and now they’ve grown and are bringing their kids, so there’s a tradition,” Pedersen said.
And while he knows this year’s tradition will be different, he looks forward to making the most of it this holiday season.
“I think the thing that will be most missed this year is the sense of community, you come in here as total strangers, one lady said you come in here as a stranger and leave as a friend, so the comraderie will be missed but it is what it is and life goes on and we have to make the best of it,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen says on November 27th, there will be a one night open house at Laurel Ridge Barn for singing. It’s free and open to the public. Donations are accepted.