Parker Pride: KELOLAND’s Don Jorgensen returns to his hometown

Eye on KELOLAND

PARKER, S.D. (KELO) — KELOLAND YOUR HOME…. You might have heard that a time or two. It’s our station’s slogan.

But for a lot of us at the station, it takes on a special meaning, because like a lot of our viewers, we grew up in KELOLAND.

Welcome to Parker. Where its residents believe ‘life’s a little bigger in a small town.’

Parker was incorporated in 1878 and like a lot of small towns in the midwest, it started out as a dusty old railroad town.

“I think it was named after a daughter of one of the engineers who went through here,” Parker Mayor Ron Nelson said.

Nelson says the population of the town hasn’t changed much over the years with just over a thousand people.

But that could be changing.

“We have a lot of new homes,” Nelson said.

Parker has four new developments and the lots are almost all full.

“I think our demographics have changed a lot in the last few years, I think at one time we were fairly old, now we have a lot of young families,” Nelson said.

The city has been making improvements to the parks, ball fields and playgrounds to accommodate those younger families, some who have moved here from out of state.

“There’s a family that just moved into our neighborhood and they moved from California, and they have two kids and pregnant with their third and they moved out of California because they said they were burning up there, they wanted to get away from everything they had. They bought the house here in Parker sight/unseen; just pictures on the internet and they feel they are in modern day Mayberry,” Mark Kasten said.

Mark Kasten grew up in Parker, moved away for a short period of time, and has since returned.

“I said when I was 18 years old I wanted every reason to leave Parker, but then once I started having a family I wanted every reason to come back,” Kasten said.

The Parker school has a couple of new additions and like a lot of smaller communities Parker takes pride in its sports teams as you can tell by the trophy case. That’s me in the second row, sporting the white home jersey number 12.

“It was a great place to grow up,” South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Mark Salter.

One person I grew up with and played a lot of basketball with has done quite well for himself.

He’s South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Mark Salter. Salter remembers playing a lot of basketball for the high school team, but also right here at Schaeffer’s Court.

“We had Schaeffer’s Court which was an institution, it was right there on the west edge of town perched up on this little hilltop and really scenic along the Vermillion River and that was the scene of innumerable basketball games,” Salter said.

Time hasn’t been kind to the old court, as you can tell, but at one time Schaeffer’s Court became a gathering place for a lot of young kids.

“We were lucky to have it and Mrs Schaeffer was gracious to let us be there and the only thing we ever did was once in awhile go up there and take a drink out of the garden hose,” Salter said.

Long before he ever worked in the field of law, Salter worked in a farm field.

“Jobs were hard to come by,” Salter said. “Like a lot of people in those days early on a lot of walking bean fields, cutting weeds out of bean fields and did some farm hand work for some of my friends who lived on farms.”

I, myself, also worked in the fields. I was a part of a harvest crew where long days and nights meant you ate your lunch and supper right there in the field.

Agriculture is a big part of Parker yet today. And it gets showcased every year at probably the biggest attraction Parker is known for.

“Of course the fair,” Kasten said.

“Our fair, you know without a doubt,” Nelson said.

The Turner County Fair is the oldest county fair in South Dakota and as the slogan says ‘The four best days of summer.’

“We’d like to have something other than that, but why it’s four days of of people just piling into Parker to go to that,” Nelson said.

As Parker residents continue to thrive in a small town atmosphere, they know living only 30 miles from Sioux Falls, that could change one day, but they say they welcome that.

“People are moving here, because they like a small town they’re not moving here because they have family connections and I think that has a lot to say for the community itself,” Kasten said.

Parker has 500 kids in the school district, which is about half the town.

They have plans to build a new elementary school at its current location and remodel the old one into a new high school.

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