It’s buffalo roundup time again in Custer State Park, and visitors from around the county and world will flock to the park this Friday, Sept. 30, to take in the sights and sounds of the 51st annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.
The roundup, which allows visitors to witness 1,300 buffalo rumble by in a fashion similar to an Old West cattle drive, is the first step in preparing part of the herd for the November Buffalo Auction. After the herd is safely in the corrals, visitors can watch as park staff sort, brand, test and select certain animals for the fall auction. The majority are returned right back into their home, the grasslands of Custer State Park.
The annual roundup is conducted to keep the bison population in check with the available grassland forage. The park’s grassland can normally support about 1,000 animals over the winter. The surplus bison, usually about 300 animals, are sold at the auction each fall and winter. The revenues from the auction help support the day-to-day operations of the State Park System.
Those who plan to watch the buffalo run need to determine which viewing area they will go to prior to Friday morning. Reservations are not required, and there are two viewing areas—north and south—available.
Lots open at 6:15 a.m. and close at 9 a.m. Handicapped parking is provided in all areas. Motorcoaches will park in the south lot.
The actual roundup will begin at 9:30 a.m. Guests must stay in the viewing areas until the herd is safely in the corrals, generally around noon. After the roundup, free shuttle service is provided from the viewing areas into the corrals and back. Testing, branding and sorting will begin at 1 p.m. and last until about 3 p.m.
Breakfast will be available at 6:15 a.m. in both viewing areas. A buffalo barbecue lunch will be served at the corrals once the buffalo are safely in the corrals until 1 p.m.
The roundup is the centerpiece of four days of activities in Custer State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial, which includes entertainment, an arts festival, a Dutch oven cook off and a Volksmarch. From Thursday, Sept. 29, through Saturday, Oct 1, there is plenty to see and do for young and old alike.
The arts festival, which takes place near the State Game Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 29, has grown from humble beginnings of around 15 vendors to well over 100 and is another sought-after part of the weekend. Merchants, artists and musicians from around the region gather to show off their wares, give educational programs or provide entertainment. The arts festival runs until the afternoon of Sept. 26.
The fun runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 29-30, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Buffalo Wallow Chili Cookoff returns after a one-year hiatus, with cookers from across the region testing their chili cooking skills in some fierce, but friendly competition. Spectators are welcome to purchase chili tastes and vote for the people’s choice award. Ticket sales begin at 10 a.m. and run until 1 p.m.. The tasting begins at 2 p.m. until the chili is gone.
Also on Saturday is the 11th annual Custer Stampede Buffalo Art Auction which features life-sized and table-top buffalo as well as a variety of free-form artwork, including paintings, sculpture and photography. All artwork is on display in Custer from mid-May through the end of September, then is auctioned off under the Entertainment Tent at the arts festival. The art will be on display at the tent from 10 a.m. until the auction begins at noon.
The weekend will conclude Sunday, Oct. 2, with the Crazy Horse Memorial Special Fall Volksmarch. The march is 6.2 miles round trip, with memorial gates opening at 6 a.m. and registration opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 1 p.m. The trail closes at 4 p.m.
A suggested donation of three cans of food per person for the KOTA Care and Share Food Drive is recommended from those participating.