Fundraiser will help Railroad Museum operate

By Jeff Smith

On the Wagon — Several people took a wagon ride during the Rail-toberfest at High Country Guest Ranch last year. A fundraiser for the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, the event included the wagon rides, food and drink, music, a raffle and an auction.

The South Dakota State Railroad Museum will be having their biggest fundraiser of the year this weekend at High Country Guest Ranch.

This event has been happening in the fall for the last eight years. This is the second year that this is taking place at High Country Guest Ranch. The theme will be “Happy Rails to you.”

The entire fundraising event is three days.

Everything starts on Friday night with the MGM musical “The Harvey Girls.”

The story has to do with how the  Santa Fe Railway used Harvey Houses to provide dining services along the line. The mutually beneficial partnership allowed Fred Harvey to use the railroad for free shipment of supplies, while providing railway passengers with quality rest stops.

Executive director of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Rick Mills, said that the Fred Harvey Company would promote western heritage and Native American in the southwest along the Santa Fe. The company would also hire single women from the Midwest to ride the trains and work in Harvey Houses.

Mills said the genesis of the Howard Johnson Hotels and other hotels was the Fred Harvey Company.

Mills said that in a lot of ways through dealings with the Santa Fe Railway and all of their hotels developed some of the first concepts for the highway motels that have evolved up to the current day.

Mills said that the Harvey Company provided a new sense of dining that wasn’t possible before. Mills said the service was “class one” and they hired some of the best people.

“Not only in the culinary world but also in the service industry to work at the hotels,” Mill said.

The Fred Harvey Company paved the way for a lot of hotel chains.

Mills said there will be 75-100 people at the events this weekend.

Mills said during the whole weekend there will be fun with cowboys, cowgirls and dancing girls. Railroad and western dress is encouraged for the gala event on Saturday night.

The night will start with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. A silent auction will be going on at the same time.

As part of the gala there will be a buffet on Saturday night. The menu will be similar to what was served on railway cars on the Santa Fe with the Harvey Company.

“There will be special pork chops and other meat dishes,” Mills said.

Mills said that will be a neat part of the event.

There is a group called Dynamix that will be at the gala on Saturday night. Mills said they are a 30-member group that does a capella music.

Mills said that it will be a good night and Dynamix will be a big part of it.

On Saturday morning and in the afternoon there will be a free tour of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum. Mills will highlight some of the changes at the museum which will be good for anyone who hasn’t been in there for a year or so. It will also be a “show and tell” for some of their new exhibits.

“We’ll also go over some of the things we’ll be doing in the next year,” Mills said.

Throughout the day on Saturday there will be specials in the Main Street Hill City stores for all of the guests that come for the fundraiser.

There will be people coming from all over the state of South Dakota for the event.

“We’re looking forward for a neat, diverse group of people,” Mills said.

“We all have one thing in common. We love railroading and its history.”

Based on the success of last year, Mills said it will be great to work with John and Barb again.

“It’s a nice venue for what we have planned,” Mills said.

Mills said that High Country Guest Ranch has been great at putting together packages for people from around the state to stay at their guest cabins.

All of the money raised during the weekend goes toward the operating fees of the museum as well as the educational components that the museum provides year-round.

Mills said the event is the primary fundraising event for the year. There will be some special events that will happen in 2019 for the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike.

Mills said they will be playing that up big. He said that a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of Wyoming was part of Dakota Territory in 1867-1868.

“A lot of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad occured in the Dakota Territory,” Mills said.

That part of South Dakota’s history will be showcased in exhibits next year and that will be heavily promoted after Christmas.

The tickets for the gala are $100. Since SDSRM is a nonprofit the donations are able to be used as write-offs for taxes. Mills was not sure how many of the tables will be left after this week.

People can get the tickets at the door for all of the events. They can also call the museum at 574-9000 or Mills at 877-6629.

The movie “The Harvey Girls” starts  at 7 p.m. Friday night. The cost is $5. The free guided tours of the museum are at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.