Hill City drawing wide variety of visitors

By Gray Hughes

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Guests from all around have been stopping in Hill City this year.

The most popular state to visit the Hill City Visitor Information Center has been South Dakota followed by Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Texas and then Colorado, according to information provided by the Hill City Chamber of Commerce.

International visitors, too, have been making Hill City a destination, with guests from Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Australia, Belgium and Mexico visiting in June.

“The (Civilian Conservation Corps) Museum is a great asset to our visitor center and our community,” said Janet Wetovick-Bily, executive director of the Hill City Chamber of Commerce. “Many of our guests are history lovers who stop in primarily to take a look and or find the name of relatives who served.”

Sculpture in the Hills, which was held June 21-23, was also a great event and a big attraction for visitors to Hill City, Wetovick-Bily said.

The recent good weather, too, she said, has attracted visitors to the town, which lead to people shopping in Hill City businesses. Travelers are even coming with their dogs.

However, the poor weather in the beginning of the season has made an impact on some of the businesses.

“Some of our lodging partners have reported they are down 10 to 15 percent due to the weather and also competition from many options our area offers,” Wetovick-Bily said. “For all of our businesses, with warm weather here to stay — at least a while — and hopefully into the shoulder season, we’re hoping that our businesses have a strong finish on the back end of peak season to make up for the impact of Mother Nature.”

Seeing the people on Main Street, though, has been “wonderful,” she said, especially to see how busy and active the business community is.

During Sculpture in the Hills, Wetovick-Bily said she saw many people strolling Main Street with a bag in hand from a downtown business.

In regards to the recent road construction, Wetovick-Bily said most people are taking it in stride.

“We have only received a few comments about it,” she said. “It’s pretty much a fact of summer life. You can help reframe it in a positive way for your customers. When traffic slows to a standstill and we’re waiting for a pilot car, it’s a great opportunity to take a deep breath, appreciate the beauty of the are we might otherwise miss and also appreciate the work of the road construction crews who make the roads better for everyone to travel upon.”

Because the Visitor Information Center is made up of a good staff who, she said, excel at welcoming hospitality, they try to reframe the situation and offer people a break.

That, she said, often includes a smile and a laugh.

“We’re really enjoying the guests who have stopped in at the chamber and visitor information officers and talking with those who call for information about the area in advance of their stay,” Wetovick-Bily said. “We’re seeing a lot of active couples — hikers, bicyclers — and families. As we do each year, many people are wishing they had more time with us as a result of finding out how much there is to do and enjoy. Plus, people continually remark on how beautiful the Black Hills are. We are always excited and grateful for the opportunity to talk about them with our visitors and encourage them to come back and see us soon.”

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