Star spangled Saturday a success

Leslie Silverman

A helicopter flyover kicked off the start of the parade for the Star Spangled Saturday in Hill City.
Although the Independence Day event officially began with a well-attended  pancake  feed at Hill City Senior Center, the parade was the pinnacle of the day. Keith Hayes and representatives from the American Legion were the first to greet attendees.
“It has brought a lot of people to town,” said Keith’s wife, Linda, who proudly awaited his blue truck and the start of the parade. Indeed the streets were lined with visitors and locals.”
“We like small town parades,” said Bill Smith, who was visiting the region with his wife Twyla. The Sioux Falls couple had already purchased a Chicago Bears birdhouse at the craft fair. “We grew up in  Miller and when we saw the parade was on the agenda we didn’t want to miss it.”
The couple also went to the senior center pancake feed and was planning on the ice cream social too.
Business owners saw increased traffic throughout the day. Some, like Jan Young with the Jon Crane Gallery, opened early and had a steady stream of customers.
Five-year-old Paisley Osbourne of Rapid City was excited for her first parade.
“We decided to do something fun for the Fourth that’s close to us,” said her mom, Kody. “In Rapid City we don’t have anything like this ever going on so we rely on other towns around us for these types of things.”
What this was was a  true community celebration. Nearly every Hill City civic organization participated in the parade.
Superintendent of schools Blake Gardner could be seen driving a truck displaying the district’s No. 1 South Dakota school ranking. Hill City Council alderman Carl Doaty and Mayor Kathy Skorzewski waved, shook hands and passed out flags. The senior center, library, lions club and arts council were all represented in the event.
Businesses from Hill City also showed their support. A fun July 4 pool float by Alexander Construction was a favorite as was a wave from Smokey Bear. At least a dozen classic cars drove in the parade as well. From the 60 walkers who participated in the parade to city administrator Brett McMacken, who could be seen picking up trash around town to insure it looked spiffy, the celebration showed the town’s commitment to community.
“It was phenomenal,” said Skorzewski. “It brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad to see that Hill City still appreciates who we are as a community. As Americans our area is so steeped in history and meaning. We are the home of Mount Rushmore.”
Skorzewski added that originally a parade wasn’t discussed but that  the community asked for one.  There were over 40 entries and  60 vehicles.
“We had residents show their cars that  haven’t been driven in years,” joked Skorzewski. The town had 650 flags to hand out and ran out before the parade was finished. Hill City hasn’t celebrated with an event like this in over 20 years.
Hill City’s four area churches supported the event as well.
“We asked for 10 pies from each of our four churches,” said Sue Anderson one of the women behind the July 3 celebration. Anderson ended up with 50, from fruit, to pecan to chocolate cream.
“It’s incredible to have more than what we asked for,” she said, adding she didn’t have to remind people or go get them. Some were even dropped off  at her house. “That’s the way Hill City is. It’s a small town with a big heart.”
That big heart could be seen by all the people who participated in  the event. But it was a core group of women each with specific responsibilities,  hearts and passion that made the event possible.
“This is an event that has been a long time coming. Even before I got here it was a long time in coming. We really like to dedicate this event to all of our community. We are a strong community here in the hills and this just shows the strength that we have when we all come out,” said Skorzewski in addressing the crowd at the pie and ice cream social.
Skorzewski  gave a “big shout out  to all of the ladies who were really responsible for bringing this entire day together.” They included Janet Wetovick-Bily,  Lori Komer, Ranae Schrier, Merle Glenn and Anderson. Wetovick-Bily was in fact the spearheading force for the event.
“In the beginning I was against it,” said chamber of commerce President Jason Peters. “But Janet proved us all wrong. It was a huge success.”  
Wetovick-Bily was pleased with the day’s turn out and success.
“The city worked together. From churches to chamber business members, sponsors, volunteers, nonprofits and fire and ambulance. It’s very gratifying to have our own unique Hill City Star Spangled  celebration,” Wetovick-Bily said.
The helicopters that wowed parade goers were all Wetovick-Bily’s idea. She contacted Black Hills Aerial Adventures knowing that they had done flyovers for Hill City in the past and for Custer during their Gold Discovery Days celebration.
“They are wonderful chamber members and we are grateful for the excitement they provided,” Wetovick-Bily said.
Co-owner Jason Wells said the pilots of the fivecopters were briefed early in the morning and given a specific time and place to make their appearance.
“It’s very important to support the community and pitch in where we can. They help support us. They give us our customers,” Wells said.
And although a few passing storms dampened the area, it didn’t dampen the spirit of the celebration.
“This would not have happened without the love, dedication and passion of a core group who put the entire event together,” Wetovick-Bily said. “The goal of the day wss to support local businesses and give our community and visitors  an opportunity to celebrate I’m grateful to everyone.”


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