SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As KELOLAND marks 70 years of bringing you the news, we’re looking back on some of our most memorable moments.

One of those dates back to the early 60s when droves of people flocked to rural South Dakota for a chance to win big.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It was late August in 1961 when the crowd, estimated to be over 100,000 people, showed up near a town in eastern South Dakota.

“I think we can rightfully say that Manchester, South Dakota today is the biggest city in five states in the entire area,” KELO-TV co-founder Joe L. Floyd said in 1961.

From a talent contest, to a carnival, to celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Lawrence Welk, and our very own Captain 11, the promotion had several draws.

But the main event of the KELOLAND Gold Rush was to dig for treasure.

Businesses across the viewing area played a role in the promotion.

“You went to local retailers and you would register to win a gold shovel, an actual shovel like this, and then you would get this plot of land. They had all these squares marked out in this farm field, and you dug up a capsule. Inside that capsule was your prize,” KELOLAND director of creative services and marketing Paul Farmer said.

The capsules contained $35,000 in cash and prizes hidden in about 1,400 plots.

Despite the excitement of the extravaganza, the day of the Gold Rush was met with some concern by organizers.

They had to wait until nearly the end of the digging before someone unearthed the top prize: $10,000.

“Joe Floyd, he was sweating it out wondering who was going to get it, if it was going to be found. Of course, if it wasn’t found that would be a big deal,” Farmer said.

Finally, Lola Carlon of Sioux Falls claimed the ultimate reward of the Gold Rush.

“Any ideas what you might buy? New car? New house? New furniture?” KELO-TV weatherman Dave Dedrick asked in 1961.
“I have five children,” Carlon said.
“You have five children? You’re going to find a good use for that then,” Dedrick said.

Other big treasures included a new car.

While some prizes were much smaller, everyone with the chance to dig took home something.

Today, more than 60 years have gone by since people crowded this farmland, but it’s still considered the biggest promotion in KELOLAND’s history.

“We know that we cover history as it happens in KELOLAND, but we’re also a part of that history too. The gold rush was a part of the history of KELOLAND TV and it’s also a part of what we call KELOLAND here in South Dakota,” Farmer said.

The memories are still fun to dig up, decades later.

The two-day gold rush promotion coincided with the Dakota Territory Centennial.