2015 Fun Fest, Black Hills of South Dakota

Black HillsThis may be one of the most famous and most photographed sights in the United States… and we were there.

This year, the Jim Smith Society held it’s annual Fun Festival in the Black Hills of South Dakota with Rapid City as our starting point for each day. Many of the Jims and Gems arrived several days early to begin sightseeing on their own as well as to meet and greet old friends from the many past years of Fun Fests.

Some of the places visited even before the official start of the festivities included Wall Drug, The Corn Palace, Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, The Chapel in the Hills, The Reptile Gardens, Devil’s Tower, The South Dakota Air & Space Museum, and Ellsworth Air Force Base and ICBM Missile Site. Because of an over abundance of photos, we are not showing pictures of all those sites and will stick to photos of activities on the itinerary.

With Jims and Gems arriving beginning on Monday and the official Fun Fest getting underway on Thursday, there was a lot of meeting and greeting in the numerous places available in the hotel. We rather took over the lobby, the lunch area, the patio, and wherever we found it convenient to catch up on news of all the families.


One of the things we do a lot is stand in line to get on the bus. But, fear not! It gives us a chance to take more pictures, chat with someone, and get in a few laughs. One picture of bus boarding will suffice since you can’t tell one from another! And, in case you are mobility challenged, let that not keep you from attending as we have several people that have special needs. It doesn’t slow them or the rest of us down and there is always someone there to help out.


Our first official itinerary item was a visit to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Dinner and Show. Included in the complex is a gift shop, rope maker, blacksmith, tinsmith, a pressed penny machine, a place to pan for pebbles, a museum, and the rustic buildings that were the scene of the “Dances with Wolves” movie.



We did have to bail Emma out of the hoosegow  so she could eat dinner.

012The chuckwagon supper was served on tin plates, made by the local tinsmith. It consisted of a baked potato, baked beans, a choice of beef or chicken, apple sauce, a biscuit and a piece of spice cake, with a choice of lemonade, iced tea, or water. Just what a hungry bunch of Jims and Gems needed.

We were then treated to an excellent show which consisted of  a mix of comedy, country, bluegrass, rock and roll and classical music. Elvis even joined the party.



Following our return to the hotel, the Board of Directors had a brief meeting. Since we have no particular business concerns, this meeting consists of reports from the JSS officers including the President, Eden NC Jim, Vice President, Shawnee, OK Jim, Secretary, Enumclaw, WA Donna, Assistant Secretary, Charlotte, NC Jim who did not attend this year, Treasurer, Charlotte, NC (Slim) Jim and Vera, Membership, East Berlin, PA Jim, Historian / Quartermaster, Indian Head, MD Jim, Newsletter Editor / Web Master, Hollister, MO Suzie, and 2016 Fun Fest Chairpersons, Budd Lake, NJ Jim and Peg. Anyone who wishes may attend these meetings and any questions or concerns about the Society will gladly be answered by any of the officers.

Friday morning our bus took us to Hill City where we boarded an 1880s train for an hour ride through beautiful Black Hills country.

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016The bus picked us up at the end of the train ride and we stopped beside a small park to have lunch. Within the park a chainsaw wood sculptor was at work. He told Saylorsburg Jim that he is a Russian from Siberia where he got a degree in computer engineering. Once in the United States, he was handed a chain saw he had never used before. He adapted to it immediately and has been creating chain saw sculptures ever since. Although it was a rather chilly, quite windy day, many of the Jims and Gems got out of the bus to view the sculptures up close and to photograph some of them.




Following lunch, we were taken to Mt. Rushmore National Park. The four faces, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into the mountainside are recognized throughout the world. To be able to stand in front of the actual sculptures is phenomenal. They are truly a work of art and a remarkable feat created and carved out of nature. Because of the onset of WWII the sculpture was never finished. The picture on the right shows the original plans for the finished sculpture but funding was cut off at the beginning of the war and never restored.



Indian Head Jim took this amazing picture showing how they made the eyes look so real from a distance. He was one of those that braved the walk along the Presidential Trail, a .4 mile loop which included more than 250 steps. trail sign

This ended our touring for Friday and we headed back to the hotel to prepare for dinner and JIMGO, our version of BINGO. Everyone contributes a prize, usually inexpensive, sometimes comical, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes homemade… All are fun and eventually each one playing will win something. There are usually extra prizes so once everyone has won a prize we all play to see who wins the extras. It’s a hilarious evening and winning is always good, but losers are smiling as well! Their time will come!

ShirleySaturday began with boarding the bus at 8:30 AM to start on another great day of exploring. Our main objective for the day was the Crazy Horse Monument, however, our bus driver wanted to take us by Mt. Rushmore first in order for a better photo opportunity than Friday offered. With the sun shining on the faces of the presidents and the sky a very clear blue, plus a much nicer, warmer day, we welcomed the chance to take more pictures.

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From Mt. Rushmore we were taken on the Norbeck Scenic Highway, part of which is referred to as the “Iron Mountain Road”. This took us over some narrow roads, through 6 tunnels, one of which was 3 inches wider than our bus, 3 pigtail bridges and lots of hairpin curves and switchbacks.

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We were awed by the amazing scenery including places like “Needles’ Highway”, and “Cathedral Spires”. At one place along the way we stopped where many pictures were taken and some of our more energetic souls climbed a hill to look for mica schist and rose quartz. (We have enough rocks in Missouri, I don’t bring more home from other places.)


Along the way, we viewed a lot of wild animals, and some not so wild.


We stopped on our way through Custer State Park to eat our boxed lunch before continuing on to the Crazy Horse Monument. 045A Rapid City Television crew met us at this point and interviewed several of the Jims and Vera for the news program to air later that evening.

Our next stop was the Crazy Horse Museum and Gift Shop where we viewed a 20 minute movie explaining the project and telling all about the family that has made it their life’s work.

There are no government funds involved in this sculpture, it is funded by the various other venues in the complex and by charitable donations that will eventually support an Indian University, among other things.

This photo shows a clear comparison of what has been done since the first rock was blasted in 1948 and the ultimate goal for the sculpture. Needless to say, it probably won’t be completed in any of our lifetimes.It does, however, make for wonderful photo opportunities and the Jims and Gems took advantage of that, as well as a tour through the gift shop and museum.

Crazy Horse



Following touring of the Crazy Horse site, we once again entered the bus to complete our journey for the day. We had one more stop at Sylvan Lake. This is a recreational lake where we were given enough time to take a walk along the path parallel to the lake. The views of the opposite side of the lake offered really phenomenal rock formations.

Of course, there was the requisite gift shop, and the ever popular “summer houses.” Our guide explained to us that “some are his” and “some are hers.”

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This ended our touring for another Jim Smith Society Fun Fest. An absolutely wonderful time was had by everyone. All that was left now was to attend our “Banquet” which used to mean dressing to the nines but has gone with the times and is now pretty casual. I think it also has something to do with not having the energy to get all gussied up after a full nine hours of sightseeing! At any rate, we say goodbye to another Fun Fest and hope we can all attend the next one. We all look forward to that with great anticipation! Below are the traditional banquet night photos of the Jims and Gems as we say our final goodbyes for 2015.


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See you in 2016 in the Poconos!