The Rimrocks, that million-year-old sandstone that frames this valley with stone walls running upriver on either side of the Yellowstone River, is a canvas waiting for an artist. Four presidents carved in stone in South Dakota’s Black Hills pull more tourists and tourists’ cash into the Rapid City area than all other attractions combined.
Seems a crime to leave all that potential sandwiched between the city and the airport. A couple of dirt stiffs with chisels might turn a half acre of that sandstone into a tourist bonanza.
Tourists go nuts for anything that can be framed with a camera. And, while the Mr. and Mrs. from Indiana were taking pictures we could be selling them postcards, baseball hats and trained gerbils.
A couple of hundred pounds of pig iron would assemble into carnival rides. Fry bread, lemonade, cotton candy and such would separate them from their portraits of Hamilton.
Holidays would be special harvest days for vendors. Fourth of July, Guy Fawkes Day, National Secretaries day, Christmas, Easter, Midsummer Night’s Eve, etc.
People have been talking about creating an event or memorial that would make Billings a vacation destination and convention Mecca. The problem is, folks are always talking about doing something. Most folks do more talking than they do doing.
Old Mayor Willard Frazer could have gotten the job done - if the City Council had given him the money to do it. Given access to the municipal treasury, he would have delivered the whole package. We would have had the history of this valley going back to the arrival of the Crow Tribe carved into a half mile of bas relief.
But we are not likely to get another Willard Frazer. As Joe Leone once said, “They broke the mold while they was making him.”
Other cities have taken advantage of hobbies and recreational activities. Bass fishing tournaments, motorcycle rallies and evangelical bakeoffs are started this way. The first one is always billed “The First Annual Etc.”
Other notions of this caliber include: an international snow globe competition, a four-state square dance contest and a worldwide tole painting competition.
I read where a small South Dakota town hatched a zucchini festival. The event attracted zucchini growers from 17 counties. The winner received a Greyhound ticket to Rapid City.
Second place won two tickets to Rapid City.
An Indian basketball tournament would draw from a great distance. Sun dances on the several reservations draw natives of Spain, Germany and France. Every family can be blessed by prosperity, it seems. Many have their own pet Europeans.
Frazer engineered the rehabilitation of Major Marcus Reno, who had been shamed out at the battle of the Little Big Horn. He also founded the “No Mom’s Bike Hike” - a bike tour from Billings to Pompeys Pillar.
Quite a guy, he was.