Celebrating our independence

By Jason Ferguson


As we celebrate Independence Day this July 4, we observe the day 243 years ago when our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

It’s a day full of fun and festivities, from games and barbecues to as many fireworks shows as the sky can handle. In Custer and in large and small towns across the nation, Americans will celebrate their freedom. Each resident will celebrate in their own special way or have a special memory about the holiday. 

For Joan Harris of eastern Custer County, July 4 has always been a time for family picnics and reunions, lots of good food, games for the children and visits with relatives she may not have seen all year.

“I’ve always loved it,” she said.

Before retiring, Verl Scheibe said he always went to the St. Paul Rodeo in St. Paul, Ore. The town of 322 people hosted five performances over three or four days with a packed grandstand of 11,000 for each performance. These days, now that the Scheibes have retired to Custer, they celebrate with friends and relatives.

“My favorite way to spend the holiday is with family and friends, ATV- riding, a family reunion and our awesome fireworks,” said Custer County treasurer Dawn McLaughlin.

City of Custer employee Kim Conwell’s oldest son was born in Custer July 4, so she didn’t get to go see the fireworks, but she could hear them from her hospital room. 😊

“Every year, of course, we went to Pageant Hill to see the fireworks,” Conwell said. “When he was 3 or 4 years old, he would go around asking everyone, ‘How do you like my birthday party?’”

Patty Ressler said she fondly remembers being involved in small-town parades as a child. That has carried on as a Custer resident and she loves that Custer has a Patriots’ Parade and “celebrates our heroes that make Independence Day possible each year!”

Mark Mills, a veteran and active member of Custer American Legion Post 46, said his favorite Independence Day memories are of parades, service members in uniform, veterans, flags, ceremonies, picnics, fun and fireworks.

“It was the America we were given, the America my parents made sure I had,” he said. “And it’s still all here in Custer…without mosquitoes!”

City of Custer Mayor Corbin Herman said he has some traditions. He starts the day by selling American flags for the American Legion, followed by watching or being in the parade, followed by a family picnic.

“I sure miss my father-in-law Tom; he loved the picnic,” he said.

He finishes the evening watching the annual fireworks show put on by Custer Volunteer Fire Department at Pageant Hill. He has missed the show only twice since he got out of the U.S. Army in 1992.

Jodi Olson said she and her husband, Jim, spend the day with family, enjoying the activities around the Hills or exploring. They follow that up by “tailgating” for Custer’s fireworks show.

Lois Wells moved to the Black Hills in 1999, so she and husband, Bill, went to the 2000 Mount Rushmore fireworks display.

Walking back to the car on the road, she recalls seeing many fires set off by the celebration that dry year. 

“But,” she said, “the Custer fireworks are a must-see event.”

For local realtor Faith Lewis, it’s as simple as having love for her country.

“The Fourth reminds me how lucky we are to be in the land of the free,” she said.

Kathy Bradeen said this year will be a neat one for her family’s Independence Day celebration because Hannah Thorstensen (an exchange student from Oslo, Norway) will be with the family to celebrate.

“I am sure Katy (Bradeen) and Hannah will make the best of celebrating,” she said.

Vachel Rice said her most vivid memory of Independence Day is when there were no fireworks because the fire danger was too high.

“We got a bunch of glow sticks and glow toys and gave them to our boys to play with that night,” she said. “They ended up creating works of art with them out on the lawn. They made buildings, robot-looking guys; their imaginations went absolutely wild! So  we ended up having a ‘blast’ after all!”