2015 BHFF cuts off early due to snow

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Snowy drive — It may have seemed out of place, but the blizzard over Mother’s Day weekend was typical Black Hills. The blizzard hit early Saturday morning, starting with rain and turning to snow by mid-morning. Keystone even had trees bent and limbs snapped due to the heavy, wet snow. For more information on the May blizzard go to page 14. [PN Photo/CARRIE MOORE] 

By Kacie Svoboda

One fateful day seven years ago, Rick and Chris VanNess were having lunch at the Alpine Inn with members of the South Dakota Film Office when an exciting idea arose. The film office members mentioned that Hill City would be a great place to have a film festival, claiming that it would be like the Sundance Film Festival in its smaller, early days.

Rick and Chris considered the idea, recruited Janna Emmel to help and subsequently the Black Hills Film Festival (BHFF) was born. The first festival was held in May 2010, just eight months after they incorporated the organization as a non-profit.

According to festival executive director Chris, the 2015 BHFF was slated to present “lots of good films,” including “many nice historical documentaries for the history buffs, good dramas and six seminars to learn behind-the-scenes information about filmmaking.”

Films for the festival are selected based on two major criteria —  telling stories that hold the interest of the audience and presenting topics of special interest to people of the Black Hills region.

One of the highlights of the 2015 BHFF was to be a reception on the 1880 Train on the last day of the festival, May 10, in honor of this year’s train theme. On May 10, 1869, the Union and the Central Pacific railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory and the golden spike was driven to join them. South Dakota State Railroad Museum director Rick Mills had a replica golden spike on display and planned to show the classic movie “Union Pacific” by Cecil B. DeMille.

However, due to the May blizzard, these Sunday events have yet to happen. With rain turning to heavy snow on Saturday, the BHFF board of directors decided to move up the award ceremony to noon, shut down the Hill City Harley-Davidson venue, end the Hill City High School programs at 5 p.m. and postpone the late Saturday and Sunday showings for a later date.

Despite the winter weather, five films were honored at the impromptu award ceremony — “Beyond the Tree Line” for Best Student Film, “Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic” for Best Documentary Short, “Beyond the Divide” for Best Documentary Feature, “Lightning in the Hand” for Best Short Film and “East Side Sushi” for Best Feature Film.

“East Side Sushi” is one of Chris’ personal favorites.

“It is a good Mother’s Day film,” she explained. “It is about a single mom, Juana, who wants to follow her dream to become a real chef and overcomes some cultural challenges along the way.”

Fortunately, “East Side Sushi” and “Behind the Tree Line” should be part of the rescheduled films and those interested in seeing them and others from the original May 10 line-up can watch for BHFF notices on upcoming opportunities to view these films on the organization’s website or email them at Info@BlackHillsFilmFestival.org to get on the notices mailing list.

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Commencement set


By Kacie Svoboda

On Sunday, May 17, at 10:30 a.m. at the Mount Rushmore Amphitheatre located at the monument, the Hill City High School (HCHS) class of 2015 will gather together with family and teachers to celebrate their years at school and the beginning of the next stage of their lives.

The commencement program will kick off with the “Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Katie Jacobs, Micah Pennel and Michal Wiederhold and the invocation by Pennel. The 2015 program will involve three honored speakers — Salutatorian Caiden Merritt, Valedictorian Allison Henderson and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.

The HCHS band will perform most of the musical selections for the program, including standbys like “Pomp and Circumstance” and more unusual pieces such as “Storm Warning.”

Regents Scholars will be introduced by guidance counselor Susan Satter and the HCHS choir will sing the selections “I Shall Not Live in Vain” and “Closer to the Flame.” The 2015 class motto is “Stay Golden.”

After diplomas are awarded, the program will conclude with Jacobs giving the benediction and the class song “Pictures of You” by The Last Goodnight.


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Public bathrooms still at issue


By Kacie Svoboda

At the Hill City Council meeting on Monday, May 11, Hill City business owners again turned out in force during the public comment period to keep pressure on the council to do something about the public bathrooms. At the last meeting, Lorena Freis of the Farmer’s Daughter had explained that she had stopped at the public restrooms in the alley behind Main Street and found them locked. With the days dwindling before the start of the summer season, Freis returned to ask about the state of the bathrooms and was joined again by Dawna Kruse of Holly House, as well as Pat Belczak of Hill City Antiques and Judy Walker of Stage Stop Leather.

In addition to adding her support to the bathroom issue, Kruse invited council members to attend the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce meetings during the public comment time. Jim Peterson of Integrity Realty also stepped up for public comment, mentioning that the sale of some of the surrounding Forest Service land presented a good opportunity for a Tax Increment Financing district to provide water and sewer development before the increment increased.

In response to the bathroom issue, Mayor Dave Gray said when he was at the monthly mayors meeting, he polled the other mayors about how they handled their public restrooms. Out of the approximately six towns represented at the meeting, two utilized port-a-potties while the rest provided public restrooms. However, these public restrooms were only available in parks, chamber buildings and city halls. Gray did recognize that as these facilities are not located on Hill City’s Main Street, Hill City might require an alternate solution.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.

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New Keystone board president


By Bev Pechan

At the May 6 Keystone Town Board meeting, seated board members were Nikki Ball, Gideon Oakes, Kwinn Neff, outgoing president David Cofoid and Cathy Madison.

In early April, former board member Sandi McLain regained her seat on the board during the annual election. Challenger Cathy Madison as runner-up was later appointed by the board and sworn into office by city attorney Mitch Johnson to fill a second vacant term, which had no candidates and was held by trustee Dick Drummond who resigned several weeks prior due to health reasons.

At that time and before the election, the board did not appoint anyone to fill Drummonds’ vacancy, leaving the city’s board of five trustees one chair short until Madison — also a former board member — was appointed as the fifth person on the panel after she lost the regular election to McLain. At last week’s meeting, McLain was sworn in as trustee and Cofoid stepped down after serving several years. Nikki Ball was appointed the current president.

Neff, who had approved Madison’s appointment at the April 15 meeting, made a motion, seconded by Cofoid, to rescind Madison’s appointment and oath of office to discuss the matter in more detail and to “set the process” for the future.

Johnson stated it was inappropriate to rescind an approved motion in such a matter and that naming Madison to the vacant seat was a legal and proper procedure. Neff countered with the argument that the appointment was not on the agenda as recommended by the South Dakota Municipal League and therefore should be abolished. Lengthy discussion followed with audience participation and the motion ultimately did not pass.

Available only in the print version of the Hill City Prevailer News. To subscribe, call (605) 574-2538.

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Have we reached the Jetson age?


By Carol Walker

Our daughter and her husband just had their fourth baby. They are giving up the Durango for an older Suburban to accommodate car seats, booster seats and groceries, but bigger vehicles make for challenges in parking. I have noticed our daughter choosing her parking spots more carefully these days.

New technology related to parking may be helpful to her in the future, if she ever has a car new enough to be equipped with the necessary electronics. With tourist season just around the corner, the same might be true for local residents and visitors to Hill City who know that summer means parking places are at a premium in downtown Hill City. Last weekend, with the Art Extravaganza and Black Hill Film Festival in town, people had a foretaste of what is to come, in what many are saying could be a record year for tourism.

I understand Ford Motor Co. already has a “Parking Assist” package available that uses ultrasonic sensors, enabling vehicles to parallel park themselves. Now, working off that existing technology, Ford is embarking on the test phase for a program called “Parking Spotter.” Partnering with Georgia Tech, Ford has developed a crowd-sourcing database that maps parking spots all over the United States. According to what I read, as people drive through an urban area, censors or cameras matched with GPS coordinates of parking spots enable drivers to find available parking spots with less driving up and down streets. Research by Ford shows that 20-30 percent of fuel emissions are due to individuals driving back and forth looking for a place to “land.” Those looking for parking places are usually traveling at a slower pace, creating more congestion on city streets.

Ford geo-mapped all the available parking spots in the United States. If a car crosses the GPS coordinates, it can be determined that it is moving into a parking place on the streets or in a parking lot. A driver can then access a cloud database app to find an appropriate parking place.

Move over, George Jetson, we are coming through! It won’t be long and we’ll all have our own hover-craft.

The article I read did say “every” available parking spot in the U.S., whether that means only larger urban areas or really everywhere — like Hill City — I don’t know. Ford is planning to equip a fleet of test cars with the technology this year and find out if it is truly a feasible business plan for them.

We do know it won’t be available yet this year, for this tourist season, but perhaps in the future. We know our traffic congestion is only for part of the year and we know how important the tourists are to the local economy, so for now we will be thankful for every car that comes to Hill City and share the streets and parking places in town. It might be a good summer to park farther away from downtown and walk — it’s good exercise.


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Kristin Denise Krull Mercy


Kristin Denise Krull Mercy was born Dec. 7, 1982, in Armour, S.D., to Dennis and Kim (Hertz) Krull.
Kristin was known for her infectious laugh, her ready smile and a sincere desire to have a “good time.” She valued her time with friends, but the loves of her life were her children — Noah, 15; Olivia, 13; and Elijah, 6.

Kristin, age 32, of Rapid City, S.D., died May 4, 2015, in Deadwood, S.D.

Survivors include  two sons, Noah Krull of Hill City, S.D., and Elijah Mercy of Summerset, S.D.; daughter, Olivia Krull of Hill City; parents, Dennis and Kim Krull of Hill City; two sisters Danielle (Eric) Lind of Rapid City and Alexis (Scott) Ferguson of Eagle Mountain, Utah; grandmother, Twylah Hertz of Armour; and numerous family and friends.

Memorial services were held Thursday, May 7, at Fountain Springs Community Church in Rapid City with Pastor Norm Hewitt officiating.

Written condolences may be made at Chamberlain-McColleys.com.

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Board recommends renaming Harney Peak ‘Hinhan Kaga’


By Carrie Moore

After hundreds of comments and numerous public meetings, the renaming of Harney Peak could become a reality.

The South Dakota Board of Geographic Names recommended by unanimous vote to change the name from Harney Peak, named after Gen. William S. Harney, to the Lakota phrase “Hinhan Kaga,” which translates to “Making of Owls.” The name — which the peak was originally referred to by Native people — was proposed in earlier public testimony. The official name would be “Hinhan Kaga (Making of Owls),” should the name be approved.

The recommendation is not final.

The board will allow another public comment period for 30 days, where the board hopes to hear from Lakota language experts to determine whether Hinhan Kaga is the historically accurate name for the mountain and if the English translation is correct. After the 30-day period, the board could take another vote at its June 29 meeting before sending its recommendation to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for the final decision.

The call for the repealing of Harney’s name on South Dakota’s largest peak came from Basil Brave Heart, who filed a petition in September of last year. Brave Heart suggested the name “Black Elk Peak” for consideration, after Lakota teacher and holy man Black Elk.

The Black Elk name was eventually removed from consideration by the state board of geographical names, saying they did not want to risk the possibility of later emerging facts that may disqualify an individual as an appropriate namesake. Other testimonies said it is not customary for the Lakota people to name geographic places for individuals, while board members also noted that the federally designated wilderness area around the peak is already named for Black Elk.

To submit comments to the South Dakota Board of Geographic Names during the 30-day comment period, visit sdbgn.sd.gov.


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