Akaska is All About Making Memories

On The Road

Akaska, South Dakota, located just seven miles from the banks of the Missouri River, only has 45 people. You wouldn’t think there is much going on… have we got a surprise for you!

“It’s friendly, everybody says, ‘Hi.  How are you?  How is the fishing?  How was the pheasant hunting?’ And so, people feel pretty comfortable here and I think that’s why you see so many people that have come.  Even from out of state to build and invest here.  Because, they’re comfortable here.  Some of them have told me, that said, “It’s getting a little big for us now, you know,” said Bill Waeckerle.

Bill Waeckerle is a retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Helicopter Pilot of the National Guard.  He started fishing in Akaska, South Dakota back in 1993.

I was on active duty as a full-time training officer for our Medivac Unit in Rapid City.  And when I got ready to retire from that, I said, ‘You know, I think I’ll move to Akaska.’  I love to fish and I love to hunt, and since I’m single, it was an easy decision to make,” said Bill Waeckerle.

Bill moved full time to Akaska in 2008.  He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to be enamored hook, line and sinker with the beautiful town.  Minnesota native Kent Kramer got caught two years ago is now fully vested in his new home town and in the Akaska Tavern and Bait Shop.

“You come to Akaska, South Dakota, you’re gonna have an awesome time.  And I totally bought into it from the first time I was out here, because it happened to me.  So, I know that I can make memories with other people coming out here as well, and I thought it was just an awesome opportunity,” said Kent Kramer.
During the winter, Akaska has a population around 45 residents, but it swells to 10 times that during the summer.  It’s like living in two different towns according to Bernice Miller, who referred this “On the Road” idea to me and who moved to town in 1994. 

“Why doesn’t Akaska just, you know, give up and just, you know what, we’re down to 45 people, UH!” asked Mike Huether.

“We want to keep this town lively, and bringing people here.  People come to fish, and then they like it here, and it’s quiet and peaceful and we have no crime.  So, they decide to buy a place or build a place here.  That’s what keeps our town growing,” said Bernice Miller.
Oh, my goodness, this little town is making good things happen.  They invest in quality of life such as their multipurpose event center.

“When we started the community center effort, the Walleye Classic effort, all of our efforts, every, every program that we’ve had, it’s been an effort between the town, the fire department, the Akaska Development Corporation, and the South Dakota Walleye Classic.  Big team effort!  Everybody works together to make it happen,” said Bill Waeckerle.

“The first time I came out to Akaska, I couldn’t believe it.  Where do you find something like that in a little town like that?  It’s beautiful.  And again, that goes back to the community stepping up and saying, “we need this for our community.”  And getting it done, bought and paid for,” said Kent Kramer.

And yes, it’s already paid for.

“We started a cattle herd, where people would buy a bred heifer.  Our farmers and ranchers would tend for them for nothing.  And we would sell the calves.  The Walleye Classic donated over $100,000 over the year,” said Bill Waeckele. “It just all came together.  So, we borrowed $200,000 and paid it off a year early.  Ten-year loan.  Paid it off in nine.”

Another $100,000 was raised to invest in economic development like a year-round fishing cleaning station.

“People love to ice fish, and now they have a place to go in there and clean their fish that’s heated and lighted in the wintertime.  That will pay big premiums for sales tax and people visiting in Akaska,” said Bill Waeckerle.
“It’s a beautiful fish cleaning station, first of all.  And it’s going to do nothing but draw more people out here.  And that’s what we’re here for. What can we give people that is going to make their experience memorable?” said Kent Kramer.
And oh, my yes, Akaska is all about creating memories.  So much happens there all year round.

“There’s a lot of activities that go along out here just like the Fourth of July parade.  We have a big Fourth of July parade that is actually on the third of July every year.  But, that’s huge too, for the community.  People come in and they have a blast while they’re here,” said Kent Kramer.
Be sure to add this event to your calendar as well.

“They do a dinner theatre.  We have that, that’s a big fundraiser too.  We serve like 200 people prime rib supper,” said Benice Miller.

“Do you get something going on here about every week?  At least every month you, I know that,” said Mike Huether.

“It seems like it.  Yeah, we, we keep hopping,” said Bernice Miller.
Kids and senior citizens alike are included in the activities.  Fishing derbies are special for everyone in town.

“When you get seniors that may not have an opportunity to ever fish, or at least an opportunity to come with some of their buddies and get on a pontoon and spend a few hours on the river, that’s special.  And then the kids, and the moms and the dads and grandpa and Uncle Johnny, all out there together.  And that’s we what we need more of in this country.  Bringing people together and care for each other,” said Bill Waeckerle.
And guess what, we haven’t even mentioned Akaska’s biggest event of their busy year.  The South Dakota Walleye Classic that started back in 2008.

“This hall will be full.  We stuff 300 people in here.  And, we weigh in now right here on the stage, so they get to see the fish,” said Bill Waeckerle.

“And where do they come from?” asked Mike Huether.

“All over.  Mostly ours now, since it’s regional, Iowa and Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, that’s pretty much the area,” said Bill Waeckerle. 

“That’s a pretty big area, Bill” said Mike Huether.

 “Yeah,” said Bill Waeckerle.

Folks come for the fishing, the pheasant and deer hunting, the beauty and they come for the memories.

“On the Road, you’ve got to check out Akaska.  It is absolutely beautiful.  And there’s something going on.  I mean if you can’t find anything going on in the big city, come to Akaska.  There’s always something going on here,” said Mike Huether.

“Thank you for coming,” said Benice Miller.

The South Dakota Walleye Classic in Akaska is held on the third weekend of July. And don’t forget, their annual 4th of July celebration is actually a day early each year on the 3rd of July.  You’ve got to be part of the fun and check out one of the most beautiful towns and areas that Taylor and I have been to while On the Road.

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