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YMCA partnering with schools for free swimming lessons

The Oahe Family YMCA in Pierre is partnering with elementary local schools for free swimming lessons.

The announcement came August 29 from Aaron Fabel, CEO of YMCA. “We are offering swim lessons to all first graders who attend at Pierre, Stanley County and St. Joseph Elementary School,” said Fabel. “We have reached out to the principals and superintendents.”

The Y’s aquatics director, Holly Hardy, and her crew are ready for the classes coming out of the Y’s Safety Around Water Initiative.

The YMCA, currently offering swimming lessons in a partnership with the United Way, is expanding the program.

Sanford Health Pierre Clinic is supporting the free water safety program for first graders, according to Angie Bollweg, clinic director, who said she is very happy with the program and with the partnership.

Each first grade class will have four lessons during a given week, each lesson being about an hour long. The arrangement includes transportation for the first graders from their schools to the Y and back again.

Also, if some children do not have the needed articles on a given day, a limited supply of swimming suits and towels will be available. The lessons include not only the basics of swimming, but also how to call for help and what to do in an emergency.

“It’s no secret that we have a lot of access to a lot of water in our community; from the river, lake and numerous swimming pools,” said Fabel. “Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14. The Oahe Family YMCA believes that all children should know how to swim and be safe in and around water. Swim lessons do not make anyone drown-proof, but they do help keep kids and adults safer in and around water, and that’s what this program is aimed at doing.”

“About 400 to 450 kids will be impacted by this, annually,” said Fabel. “We hope to start classes in the next month or so, whatever will work best for the classes, instructors and schools. Some classes will start sooner, while some will start after the first of the year. It’s a big partnership; whatever works in the schedule and curriculum.”

“We can’t thank Aaron Fabel and the YMCA enough for providing this opportunity for our 1st graders,” said Kelly Glodt, superintendent of Pierre School District. “When community agencies work in cooperation, it is pretty amazing what can be accomplished. The school district had very little to do with the organizing and leg work necessary to make this a reality. We simply, graciously, accepted the offer.”

“Each school and 1st grade classroom will schedule with the YMCA,” said Glodt. “Once schedules are finalized, each child will get more detailed information to take home. No child would be forced to participate, but from our previous experience, I don’t know that we have had any students opt out. Most parents are grateful for the opportunity. Water safety is an important lesson for children in any community, but definitely in our area.”

“The Y is working with River City Transit to provide transportation,” added Glodt.

Fabel explained part of his energy for the program.

“I had a near-drowning as a youth,” he said. “And that really propelled me to become a swimming instructor. I want to give back what the YMCA gave me as a kid. While swimming is fun, it can be dangerous.”

“What we’ve heard is that second grade is kind of that magic number; learning to swim gets harder later. We use first grade as a starting point, and hopefully the kids’ interest will be there to continue learning and getting better. Who knows, maybe they will want to be a swimming instructor some day,” said Fabel.

YMCA information includes, “71 percent of the world is water; children are 100 percent curious.”

A typical session includes:

Exercises to help kids adjust to being in water

Instruction in “Jump, Push, Turn, Grab” and “Swim, Float, Swim,” two skill sets kids can use if they unexpectedly find themselves in the water

Specific safety topics, like what to do if you see someone in the water who needs help

Fun activities that reinforce skills

Swim lessons

“Drowning can happen nearly anywhere with water. But, as a parent or caregiver, you can’t keep your children sidelined. You need to equip them with the tools they need to be confident in and around water so they don’t lose out on the health benefits of exercise, the opportunities to bond with family and friends and the sense of accomplishment when they learn new skills,” the YMCA information noted.

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Chris Gage to play a guitar with country history in his hometown of PIerre

Chris Gage, noted musician from Austin, Texas, via Pierre, South Dakota, will play a special concert Sept. 7 in Pierre featuring a unique guitar.

It’s a special event organized by South Dakota Public Broadcasting in partnership with the National Music Museum at USD in Vermillion.

In the concert at the Ramkota, Gage, a 1972 graduate of Riggs High School, will play a 1969 Martin D-28 guitar custom built for guitar-picking legend Merle Travis which also has been owned by country music legend Johnny Cash and Cash’s ex-son-in-law and country star Marty Stuart.

Gage, who played on Hee Haw for years and was in Roy Clark’s band, regularly plays on Austin City Limits, owns a recording studio there and tours with Jerry Jeff Walker.

“I’m honored to be asked and excited to be a part of this,” Gage said in a news release from SDPB. “Pierre is still in my blood, I guess.”

He told the Capital Journal this week that he’s intrigued to see the guitar, which he has been told will be carefully transported to Pierre by a Museum curator and watched closely while it’s here.

“I hear it’s going to be under armed guard,” Gage said with a laugh. “I promise I will be careful.”

The concert is part of SDPB’s promotion of the Ken Burns’ new documentary on Country Music that will run for six days in mid-September.

Gage is a well-known in South Dakota music history as a founder member of the Red Willow Band and in the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Merle Travis guitar carries its own interesting history and will be treated as a star at the concert in Pierre.

The Martin guitar was made in 1969 for Travis, who is credited with the thumb-based “Travis” style of fingerpicking that he popularized and Chet Atkins further perfected.

(Many who may not know Travis’ name might remember him from his small but memorable role in the 1953 blockbuster “From Here to Eternity,” picking and singing “Reenlistment Blues.”)

The style is more popular than ever and championed by the Dire Straits’ great Mark Knopfler.

The guitar was passed from Travis to Marty Stuart, who has built his own museum of country music history, including about 100 historic guitars.

Stuart traded the Travis Martin to Johnny Cash for a fancier and more valuable 1939 Martin D-45 which Cash had obtained from Hank Williams, Jr. and played on his vaunted TV music/variety show that ran on ABC from 1969-1971, according to an account Stuart gave in 2014 to Guitar Player magazine.

Cash was such a fan of Merle Travis he was willing to make the trade, Stuart said.

Years later, Johnny Cash gave the 1969 Merle Travis Martin to Merle Travis’ son, Thom Bresh, a respected finger-picking guitarist in his own right who has performed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and John Prine.

Cash urged Bresh to play with pride the guitar with his father’s name in big letters on the neck.

“You’ll be able to say this guitar was owned by three great musicians and a poet,” Cash told Bresh.

Gage’s concert on Sept. 7 will be the first time the Merle Travis Martin has been played since Bresh played it in South Dakota in 2005 at the opening of the guitar gallery in the National Music Museum on the campus of USD in Vermillion, says Arian Sheets, curator of stringed instruments at the Museum, which is legendary itself.

Gage began his professional musical career in Pierre and last played here on July 30.

Ron Lutz had Gage and his wife and musical partner, Christine Albert, perform in concert in Lutz’ Hitching Horse Inn bed-and-breakfast on North Euclid Avenue on July 30.

“It was packed,” Lutz said. “We had about 36 people.”

Lutz has known Gage since childhood and graduated from Riggs with Gage’s older brother.

“I gave Chris his start,” Lutz said with a chuckle. “I hired him to play in my bar just after he got out of high school, in 1972. In the Whale Inn, down on Sioux Avenue. His band was “The All Night Good Time Band.”

Gage remembers it being a little earlier.

“Ron was one of my first employers,”Gage said. “I was still in high school. After my junior year, we played all summer at the Whale Inn. We played in the basement. It was a 3.2 beer place, so the clientele was 18 (and older). I also played at the 406 Club on Pierre Street when I was in high school. They used to have a night club upstairs, with strippers and a band. So it was pretty fun for a teen ager.”

He went to college for a couple years at the University of Minnesota.

“I decided I didn’t want to be a music teacher. I quit school and started a band. That was in 1974.”

He helped form the now legendary South Dakota group Red Willow Band.

“Ronnie Carpenter was the drummer, the bass player who is still in Pierre, was Lonnie Schumacher. Lonnie was in the All Night Good Time Band, too, so we played together for a long time,” Gage said. Famed fiddler Kenny Putnam joined later.

Gage and the band were inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

They still get together to play, Gage said.

“We played a couple shows this summer, like we have the past three summers. Which is pretty good for a band that broke up 40 years ago.”

Ever since the start of Red Willow Band in 1974, Gage has made his living as a working musician, which is a rare feat.

“It’s all I’ve ever done,” he said by phone from Austin, Texas. Austin rivals Nashville for its music city status.

He appears regularly on Austin City Limits.

“They do a Hall of Fame show every year and I’m in the house band for that.” Which means he’s played on stage with Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Chris Isaak, Roseanne Cash and Willie Nelson, to name a few.

Besides musical talent — Gage plays keyboards and sings as well as playing guitar — he makes making a living in music sound like a lot of work.

“What it takes is putting on several different hats. I’ve always got a ‘high visibility’ sideman job. Right now, that’s (playing guitar for) Jerry Jeff Walker. And I’ve always got my own band and I’ve always had a recording studio.(Moonhouse Studio) And I play at a big church every Sunday morning. Riverbend Church, one of those big ‘three-screen’ churches. I don’t go there, I just work there. It’s the best band I play in. Everyone in it is a professor of jazz at UT. It’s pretty amazing.”

Gage grew up going to church at First United Methodist in Pierre.

“I sang my first solo there when I was 7 years old.”

Gage doesn’t play the thumb-led Travis style of picking.

“But I can emulate it,” he said. “I use a flat pick and then pick with my other fingers.”

He’s been told the Travis guitar will have minders, including a curator from the National Music Museum who will bring the guitar to the concert and take it back afterward.

Gage has thought about a play list.

“I figure I will do at least one Merle Travis number. One or two Johnny Cash songs, a couple of my own. And I might do a Spanish guitar number.”



The concert is free and will be in Amphitheater #2 in the Ramkota Hotel & Convention Center on Sioux Avenue in Pierre at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7.

It will include Gage in a discussion and Q&a as well as performing.

Arian Sheets, the curator of stringed instruments at the Museum will talk about the Merle Travis Martin guitar

Using a grant from the WETA, the Washington (D.C.) Educational Television Association, SDPB is holding the concert in Pierre and two similar concerts of country music to promote the eight-part, 16-hour documentary film by Ken Burns, Country Music, that will run on SDPB Sept. 15-18 and Sept. 22-25. Previews of the new documentary were shown last weekend on SDPB.

The idea is that the history of this storied Martin guitar made for Merle Travis and passed through some legendary country hands, illustrates the history of country music, said Patricia Bornhofen, communications director for the National Music Museum in Vermillion.

It’s also a chance to get some of the Museum’s instruments out for people to see and hear, she said.

The Museum is closed during a $10 million addition and renovation that will add about 15,000 square feet of space and upgraded technology but won’t be completed until 2021, Bornhofen said.

In the meantime, the 15,000 instruments remain carefully packed away in storage, she said.

When re-opened, there will be more room and perhaps more than the 1,200 instruments that have been on display can be seen regularly, Bornhofen said.

Capital Area United Way kicks off its 2019-2020 campaign with a $621,100 goal

The Capital Area United Way kicked off its 2019-2020 campaign on Thursday, Aug. 22, at Steamboat Park Amphitheater in Pierre.

The community was invited to the family-friendly event that highlighted the Capital Area United Way’s (CAUW) partner agencies, and the services these agencies provide. CAUW provides services to friends and families through its 20 partner agencies, which provide more than 50 programs in Hughes and Stanley counties.

The new campaign goal is to raise $621,100. A new way to donate this year is asking people to watch for United Way mailers. Steve and Jami Beck, huge supporters and champions in the community, were announced as co-chairs.

Each of the first 50 kids arriving could customize a free t-shirt. And, there were give-aways throughout the evening.

Along with fun activities for everyone, all the partner agencies provided verbal and pamphlet information about what they do. There was also the premier of United Way’s campaign video. Raise your hand. Be the spark.

CAUW provided free root beer floats, with the Ice-cream donated by Dairy Queen of Pierre. There was also free water.

“This new kick-off went great and I believe people learned more about who we are, who our partner agencies are, and what we all do for this community,” said Ashlee Rathbun, executive director Capital Area United Way. “I am excited to start planning next years kick-off, and see how we can make this event even better.”

The Capital Area United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Hughes and Stanley counties.

“It was well attended, and the rain held off,” said Nancy Schlichenmayer of The Right Turn. It hosted an obstacle course with tunnels, and a book walk run similarly to a cake walk.

“The book walk was a hit, we used music from Phil Baker, the children’s performer from Trader Days. too,” she said. “Children of all ages and parents followed the numbered stepping stones and, when the music stopped, we would draw a number. Whomever was standing on that number would select a book. We had free natural juice freeze pops. We probably had 75 children and 40 adults visit our booth but they would come back multiple times to participate in the book walk.”

Festivities included music by Oahe Light and Sound, food from the Dakota Cuban food truck, peddle car races by the South Dakota National Guard, and bounce houses by Dakota Prairie Bank.

Other partner agencies and what they did for kick off activities are:

Oahe Child Development had face painting, and Clifford the dog

Growing Up Together offered rock painting

Pierre Area Referral Service helped at different booths throughout the evening

South Dakota Child Assessment Center offered bracelet/necklace making, temporary tattoos, and coloring

Oahe Family YMCA provided playing with blue play blocks

Missouri Shores sponsored spin-a-prize / play to win

Sioux Council Boy Scouts illustrated knot tying

Teen Court / Boys and Girls Club of the Capital Area sponsored lawn checkers

Pat Duffy Community Center ran a corn hole toss

United Way provided information on its IMPACT programs that it funds or runs for the community.

The 211 Helpline service for Hughes and Stanley counties

Say Yes to the Dance — designed to make prom affordable and accessible for all high school students in Hughes and Stanley counties

Youth Booster Fund — assists youth-serving organizations, or youth themselves, with mini-grants in Hughes and Stanley counties

Imagination Library — provides free books to children, ages zero through five, who reside in Hughes and Stanley counties. (funded by Connie and Gary Grittner)

Project H.E.R.O. provides milk tickets and emergency transportation tickets to students to ensure they are healthy and able to get to school on time, and ready to learn

Sponsor the Delta Dental Mobile Smiles Bus

Girls on the Run/Girls on Track — serves girls in third through eighth grade, helping prepare them for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living.

bank donation

First National Bank has donated $500 to the Pierre School District Counseling Program to help students in need of supplies. The money is very much appreciated.

Oahe Chapel to host pie social on Sept. 8

A free, old-fashioned pie and ice cream social is being held on the grounds of the Oahe Chapel north of Pierre from 1:30-3:30 p.m. CDT on Sunday, Sept. 8.

Live music will be offered by local musicians. Ron Smith on piano and Lori Hall on bells will play in the chapel at 2 p.m. There will also be games available such as corn hole and ladder golf. While this is a free activity, freewill offerings will be accepted.

The event is being hosted by the Oahe Chapel Preservation Society, a group of local volunteers who have been charged with maintaining and preserving the Oahe Chapel for future generations. The chapel is owned by the South Dakota State Historical Society, but the Preservation Society does not receive state funding. Maintenance of the chapel is funded through annual memberships, rentals, donations, and fundraisers.

The chapel is located adjacent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center, approximately five miles north of Pierre on SD Highway 1804.

Established in 1874 by Rev. Thomas L. Riggs, a Congregationalist minister, and his first wife, Cornelia Margaret “Nina” Foster, the Oahe Mission was built to serve the Sioux Indians of central South Dakota. It was located on the east bank of the Missouri River at Peoria Flats, roughly five miles upriver from the current location of the chapel. The chapel was built in 1877 and was used as both a schoolhouse and a house of worship. It was moved to its current location in 1964 after construction of the Oahe Dam flooded the original site.

Ecumenical church services are held at 8 a.m. each Sunday from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. These services are hosted by members of the Pierre-Fort Pierre Ministerial Association and the Oahe Chapel Preservation Society.

For more information on the Oahe Chapel, the Oahe Chapel Preservation Society or how to rent the chapel, contact the State Historical Society at 605.773.3458 or go online to history.sd.gov/Preservation/OaheChapel.aspx.

PARS celebrates a new location grand opening and capital campaign

The Pierre Area Referral Service (PARS) is hosting a grand opening on Thursday, Sept. 5, from 4 — 6 p.m.

PARS has moved to a new location — 108-110 W. Missouri — now basing all its many community-based functions out of one place.

“At this event, we will be kicking off our first-ever Capital Campaign. We are hoping to raise $100,000 to put towards the purchase of our new building,” said Corwin Jones, PARS executive director. “Our friends at Delta Dental, and Julia and Scott Jones have each pledged $25,000 — $50,000 total — in matching funds toward this capital campaign.”

The event will be casual, offering meat and cheese snacks and a social atmosphere.

“People are probably also going to the swimming pool capital campaign kick-off on that same day,” said Jones. “So, come to both. We have invited community officials, such as the mayor, and of course we will have our board members greeting potential sponsors and other guests at our building’s grand opening.”

“This new location brings all of our services under one roof for the first time in 45 years,” said Jones. The new location of 108-110 W. Missouri was purchased in February of this year.

The office space for the multi-function PARS used to be 2520 E. Franklin Ave. “We are no longer off-site now, since July 31,” said Jones. “We had an open house when we opened the pantry side. Now, though, we are doing the whole building.”

PARS administers the Pierre/Fort Pierre Food Pantry, Holiday Food Program, Emergency Assistance Program, BackPack Food Program, Senior Food Box Program, and Information & Referral Services. PARS is also the local Salvation Army Service Unit for Hughes and Stanley County. The facility serves people in need through referral and direct services.

The building needed interior remodeling to make one of the office spaces into a functional food pantry. This included removing a wall, removing carpet, installing hard surface flooring, improving electricity for freezers, installing a new water heater, sinks and fixtures, and new thresholds for the rear doors. The exterior work has included, or will include, additional insulation under new roofing, revamping downspouts and gutters, and installing electricity to the garage area for heating/cooling for food storage.

“By making a tax deductible donation, you’ll be directly contributing to the longevity of PARS and the community Food Pantry, along with our other vital programs. This means PARS can ‘Build on the Past Through a New Building for our Future’,” said Jones.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact Corwin Jones, executive director, at 224-8731.