Finding South Dakota’s hidden gems

First Gentleman Bryon Noem’s mission is simple: He wants to celebrate South Dakota and all the things that make it special. 

He said he wants to remind people of the hidden gems of the state’s small towns – the places off the beaten path. 

“Our hometowns are the heartbeat of our state, and I want to highlight them. I want to remind people that South Dakota’s rural communities are some of the BEST places to raise a family or to start a business. I’m excited for this opportunity to listen to the stories of our people and our rural communities,” Noem said in launching his initiative in October.

Our small towns are our culture. They’re who we are. 

Take a moment to think about all the gems we have here in the Northern Hills – from the country-fried steak at the Belle Inn, the Prime Rib at the St. Onge Bar to Davis’ Barber Shop in Sturgis and the Miner’s Tin Cup in Lead.

Noem wants to celebrate South Dakota and all the things that make it special. 

This initiative hits close to home for Noem, who grew up on a farm outside of Bryant - a community of 456 people. 

“I’m proud of my rural roots. It’s where I learned the values of hard work and self-reliance, where Kristi and I chose to raise our kids, where we started an insurance business and hunting lodge, and where my family has farmed and ranched for a century,” he said.

But many small towns like Bryant are struggling today. Schools are consolidating, and businesses can’t afford to stay open. 

While South Dakota has grown by more than 100,000 people since 2000, rural populations have decreased. 

Noem wants to show people that the way of life here in the Heartland is worth celebrating and promoting. He wants to listen to peoples’ stories and learn from their experiences, then share them with others.

So, over the next few years, he will be traveling to communities and uncovering the big things in our small towns. 

“I want to listen to people tell stories about their hometowns. Whether it’s hearing the stories of a veteran over morning coffee… shooting hoops with the mayor and hearing about the good and tough times a town has gone through… eating ice cream and learning about the heritage of a community… I want to hear it all and share those stories with you. It’s my mission to celebrate the incredible value our small towns bring to our state.”

We agree First Dude (oops, that was one of the names that got nixed when first trying to decide what to call the governor’s husband). South Dakota’s small towns are chocked full of hidden gems and we look forward to seeing you unearth them for all of us to experience.

Editorial Board,

Black Hills Pioneer


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(1) comment


Chock full is the term.

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