I discovered South Dakota with wide-eyed delight during a road trip (Detroit to Seattle) in 1999. I loved hiking in Badlands National Park, eating bison burgers, gazing at the presidents on Mount Rushmore. But what I loved most was the town of Deadwood, the way history lived on its streets.
Every night, local actors re-enacted the shooting death of Wild Bill Hickok on Main Street of the old mining town. Afterwards, I bought a ticket to watch the community theater group stage the trail of his killer, Crooked Nose Jack McCall. In the morning, I visited the graves of Hickok and Calamity Jane.
Gambling had been legalized about 10 years earlier, and the town was trying hard to attract tourists. Kevin Costner had opened the Midnight Star casino (pictured above), which also had the town’s fanciest restaurant. The table limit was only $5 back then, and I spent a fun evening winning at blackjack, then spending those winnings and more on a steak dinner.
Gambling now brings in huge revenues. Hoping to draw serious players, the state has raised the table limit twice; it will be $1,000 effective July 1. Bolstered by the HBO series Deadwood, the town continues to draw tourists like me who are entranced by its history. But how does the town strike a balance between the lure of history and gamblers who want modern conveniences? Go here to read an Associated Press report on this dilemma.
Photo credit: Amber Hunt/Associated Press