by Yvonne Hollenbeck for the Tri-State Livestock News; 2017
When you gather a group of the finest musicians and vocalists in the tri-state area and present them on the stage of the beautiful Historic Homestake Opera House at Lead, South Dakota, the results are a presentation of one of the most outstanding Christmas programs of the season.
Under the co-direction of popular cowboy singer, Paul Larson and the executive director of the opera house, Sarah Carlson, this celebration has grown from the idea of hosting an old-fashioned concert and dance to what is now a “must see” event that was presented to a sold-out crowd of 1,000 attendees.
In addition to Paul Larson, the impressive lineup of entertainers included the internationally famous fiddle champ, Kenny Putnam, who now makes his home at Rapid City; star instrumentalist and former member of “A South Dakota Acoustic Christmas,” Boyd Bristow of Sioux Falls; singer/songwriter Jami Lynn of Rapid City; outstanding bassist and vocalist, Chet Murray, also of Rapid City; talented and versatile pianist, Connie Hubbard of Spearfish; cowboy singer, songwriter and poet, Robert “JingleBob” Dennis of Red Owl; Allen and Jill Kirkham, the award-winning singing duo from Custer; Clearfield ranchwife and poet, Yvonne Hollenbeck (myself); and adding her beautiful voice to the mix was co-anchor, Sarah Carlson. Chuck Larsen of Hulett, Wyoming very capably handled the emcee duties and added some of his cowboy poetry to the program. Following the evening performance, many folks enjoyed an old-time cowboy dance with music by the ever popular “Wilt Brothers Band” of Rapid City.
South Dakota is blessed to have a facility such as the Homestake Opera House, and a visit to this unique facility is an attraction that is second to none. In 1914, the building was constructed as a social and cultural center by philanthropist and owner of the Homestake Mining Company, Phoebe Hearst, following the death of her husband, mining magnate George Hearst (father to William Randolph Hearst). The elaborate building boasted a library, a 1,000 seat theater, and featured a heated indoor swimming pool, a billiards hall, six-lane bowling alley, smoking room, social hall and more. This magnificent building was literally the heart of hills until 1984, when the theater portion of the building was nearly destroyed by fire. After sitting empty for 11 years, plans began for renovation of the building with the addition of many modern amenities and it is now home to a first class theatre program providing musicals, adult comedy plays and children’s shows year-round. An ongoing and successful fundraising program has made it possible for the continuation of restoration and improvements, which includes the new Interpretive Center exhibit that opened in May, 2016.
The beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota is indisputably one of the top vacation destinations in America, and a trip to that area would not be complete without a visit to the historic Homestake Opera House, better known as the “Jewel of the Black Hills,” or attending one of the many first-class productions in this beautiful facility including the annual Black Hills Cowboy Christmas concert and dance. For a list of upcoming events, visit http://www.HomestakeOperaHouse.org or call 605-584-2067 for ticket information or to schedule an official tour of the whole building, including the interpretive center and the swimming pool.