Awards well deserved

A number of local Custer Area Chamber of Commerce  members were honored with some well-deserved awards at the annual banquet Oct. 15. Topping the list was the Lifetime Achievement Award that went to the late Brian Boyer who died last year following a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of only 59.
In last week’s issue of the Hill City Prevailer News in the Down Memory Lane column, 20 years ago at this time Brian and his wife, Janet, purchased the city-owned Mangy Moose building on main street at public auction for $160,000. This was the start of their business ventures.
It wasn’t long after this that the two Hill City School District teachers fixed up and sold that building, quit their jobs and moved to Custer. Their first business venture here was a motel they purchased, renovated and obtained a Days Inn franchise for. They sold that and moved on to purchase Rock Crest Lodge which they renovated and added 17 hillside cabins.
The couple and their son, Johnathan Stahl, then set their sights on the former Skyway-Elk Canyon restaurant buildings and completely remodeled them, adding a rooftop dining area in the process. This is now the Buglin’ Bull owned by Regency. Next in line was what is now the Beggin’ Burro Mexican restaurant just to the east of the Bull, in what was formerly the Azuki Bean.
Then they moved back down the street again to purchase the former Chief/Cattleman’s /Dark Horse restaurant building at an “accidental” auction and turned it into an events center and craft brewery, Mount Rushmore Brewing Co., and upstairs restaurant, Pounding Fathers.
Everything Brian and his family touched they either remodeled, expanded or improved. In doing so, they greatly spruced up the Mount Rushmore corridor through Custer. His civic involvement ranges from president of the board of Black Hills Badlands in Rapid City to the local chamber and Business Improvement District, which he was instrumental in establishing. The latter resulted in more marketing funds available for this area. Brian was a busy guy, but always took a few minutes to visit whenever we ran into him. We will miss those visits.
Deserving Individual of the Year honors went to Custer School District Supt. Mark Naugle, who has guided the district through the past six months of the virus attack. Naugle and his administration have done all they can to ensure that learning goes on as best it can with in-school classes at both Custer and Hermosa, while keeping students safe. We told him recently we did not envy his having to make these difficult decisions of providing the best educational opportunities while keeping students and staff members safe. We always thought it was tough enough to make weather-related decisions about holding school, but these past few months have been a new, additional challenge. It should be noted that Naugle has also been the point person in establishing the TeamMates adult-student mentorship program in our schools. He took ownership of the program and became its volunteer coordinator in the district, making Custer the first in the state to implement this valuable program.
All summer long we observed Polaris utility vehicles pulling out of Adventure Rentals at the corner of Mount Rushmore Road and 5th Street in droves after drivers had their operating/safety briefings. Alex and Holly Neimann certainly tapped into the popular off-road vehicle rental market the past three years as they accepted the Business of the Year Award at the banquet.
Attorney Marty Freidel, the chamber’s legal counsel, was the recipient of the President’s Award for his volunteer work for the chamber. Freidel is also a volunteer at the Custer State Park Visitor Center.
Colleen Hennessy was awarded the Community Service Award for her “many years of service, loyalty and dedication to the Custer area.” It is her second such chamber award. If there were any more painted plastic full-size buffalo around, she and her husband, Jim Frank, would certainly add them to their grazing herd.
Government Employees of the year, Custer State Park visitor services program manager Kobee Stalder, and the park’s interpretive program manager Lydia Austin, are most deserving. The two were instrumental in helping us put together the well-received 100th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine of the park in 2019, and are key employees in our “Crown Jewel of State Parks.”
If there was an “unsung heroes” award it would go to the dedicated Custer Public Works Department employees who are on-call 24-7. They received the Extra Mile Award this year at the banquet.
Congratulations to all this year’s award winners! You all are what makes the Custer area so great!

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