A Look Back at the Year of 2021

Photo by Eric Boyd/Fall River County Herald-Star

One of the stories which dominated the headlines of the Fall River County Herald-Star during the spring of 2021 was the eventual demise of the Wesch-Oak building in downtown Hot Springs, which was knocked down June 9.


By Brett Nachtigall


HOT SPRINGS – As one would guess, COVID-19 related stories were again a part of the Fall River County Herald-Star headlines in 2021 as they were in 2020. But as the year progressed, and as many of the things which were put on hold during 2020 began to come back, it started to become apparent that coronavirus was becoming a part of the new reality of life and a lesser part of the headlines.

One of the pandemic-related features of this newspaper which debuted towards the end of 2020 and still remains a part of the front page to this day is the weekly “Local Data on COVID-19” update. According to the Dec. 31, 2020, Fall River County Herald-Star, as of that week, there had been a total of 443 cases of COVID-19 in the county, with 28 active cases that week and a total of 12 deaths. At that time, Fall River County had been averaging 12 cases per week over the previous 12 weeks (October/November/December) with that number trending slightly downward.

According to the data that came out earlier this week, Fall River County has now had a total 1,260 cases (increase of 817 in the past year) since the pandemic began in early 2020, with 17 new cases in the past week (5 more than the average per week last year at this time) along 75 total active cases currently (47 more than the same week last year) and a total of 29 deaths (17 more than one year ago). So as it would appear, we really haven’t come that far in the past 12 months, despite the availability of vaccines in 2021.

Aside from the occasional coronavirus-related headline, there were far more other things which filled the pages of the Fall River County Herald-Star in 2021, including a number of multi-part feature story series which have become a popular attribute of the newspaper.

Despite debuting in 2020, the “Naming Writes” series by Marcus Heerdt concluded in July of 2021 with seven more installments featuring the namesakes of Jennings Avenue, J.H. Keith Memorial Park, Badger Clark Road, Woodward Field, Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home, Tays Center and Dave Scott Track and the Helen Magee Room at the Hot Springs Public Library. Plans are currently underway to compile all 12 of the Naming Writes stories into a book, which is hoped to be released for sale sometime in 2022.

Another feature series, by Charity Maness, included Fall River Foundations with profiles on Ardmore, Provo, Fall River County and the now-submerged town of Lithia. Maness also wrote Veterans Town Profiles about local military veterans Alvis Crazy Bear, Dan DeFries, Wayne Underwood, John Leui, Lyle Tennyson, Victor Kienitz, Steven Overby and Dan Star in 2021.

Maness also wrote a four-part series entitled “100 years of memories” through eyes of Hot Springs’ four centenarians, who at the time, all resided at Pine Hills Retirement Community: Carolyn Curl (107), Mae Niedermyer (105), Maggie May (103) and Margaret Lewis (102). Sadly, over the last half of 2021, three of the ladies in the feature series passed away with only 103-year-old Maggie May still making her home at Pine Hills.

A couple other popular news series were in reference to the area’s booming real estate markets. A three-part series entitled “Fall River Dreamin’” by Marcus Heerdt was published in August and September and featured stories about new residents, the local housing market and the recently released 2020 census data. Another four-part news series entitled “Exploring the commercial real estate opportunities in the Hot Springs area” debuted in November and summarized all of the recently listed and sold commercial properties.

Also featured each month in 2021, and also in this week’s Dec. 30, 2021, edition is the always-popular and award-winning Fall River Rhapsody photo essay by Dick Kettlewell.

A number of the past year’s headlines also covered several of the area’s local community events, which included some which were either canceled or altered in 2020. Events like Stars, Stripes & Steps; the Main Street Arts & Crafts Festival; the Fall River County Fair in Edgemont; the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival; the Southern Hills Triathlon; the 911 Stair Challenge; the 75th annual Oelrichs Last Roundup Rodeo and others all saw record or near-record participation in 2021.

In sports, some of the highlights included the Edgemont volleyball team making its first-ever appearance in the Class ‘B’ SoDak 16. The Moguls also had a pair of athletes earn some notable individual honors including junior Morgan Peterson winning a Class ‘B’ state title in the 300-meter hurdles and senior Caleb Simons setting several new school records in boys’ basketball. 

The Hot Springs Bison also had its share of sports achievements including the Hot Springs Bison gymnastics team setting a new school record in most team points earned at an event, and the Hot Springs Bison football team also setting several new school records including most shutouts in a season and fewest points allowed in a season.

Other ongoing items often read in the headlines of the Herald-Star in the past year related to the demolition of the Wesch-Oak building along with ordinances involving the dispensing of medical marijuana. Following is a chronological listing of the top-12 headlines of each of the previous 12 months. Enjoy!


• Vaccine not yet available to general public; Phase C1 group vaccinations to begin this week

• Hot Springs VA gives first vaccine shots on last day of 2020

• Commissioners send Shep’s Canyon Road funding letter to legislators

• Lance Russell extends lengthy public service record in return as State’s Attorney

• FRHS preparing for Phase ID vaccine roll out, date still unknown

• Three county commissioners sworn into office (Les Cope, Joe Allen, Heath Greenough)

• Pine Hills residents receive Pfizer vaccinations from Walgreens

• City of Edgemont accused of not following own ordinance (regarding dilapidated structure)

• Basketball referee charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct following in-game incident at Edgemont School

• Moccasin Springs receives ranking on Spas of America’s Top 100

• Survivors share their childhood experience with Polio, offer perspective on current Coronavirus pandemic

• Vaccination clinics going well for FRHS


• Unusually large crowd attends Rural Fire District meeting, election

• Hot Springs armed robbery case (at Corner Pantry) set for trial

• Sen. Rounds assured hopes for Hot Springs VA still in place

• Construction of ‘barndo’ piques public’s curiosity

• Hot Springs man (Brian Spitzer) indicted for sexual exploitation of a minor

• Edgemont City Council passes resolution to fund drinking water facility improvements

• Wind Cave visitor center reopens to the public after 11-month closure

• Ace Hardware now a four-generation family business

• Multiple charges result in high-speed chase stemming from romantic dispute

• Medical Clinic in Haiti named after United Churches mission volunteer, Annie Zwetzig

• Hot Springs City Council debates Code of Conduct

• HSHS All-Class Reunion now slated for 2025


• Alex Christopherson to give the gift of life to sister Cherokee

• Local frontline workers rise above during COVID

• Water break along Hwy. 385 impacts some rural water customers

• New RV park to cater to larger, longer-stay campers

• Work on downtown river channel restoration project progressing

• Late investor hoping to sway looming demolition of Wesch-Oak building

• Weekend winter storm causes temporary shutdown to much of area

• Unlikely discovery gives family a small piece of a lost loved one (class ring found in Edgemont of now-deceased Brian Keith Evans)

• Hot Springs recognizes its Teachers of the Year (Koreen Hammel, Kim Thompson, Laura Marchant)

• School board announces plans to hire choir teacher, add guidance counselor

• Wesch-Oak demo low bid accepted by City Council

• Controversial article prompts discussion in Edgemont (involving Bethel Church)


• FRHS Vaccination Clinic does 360 shots last Wednesday

• Homeschool bill passes in Pierre

• Edgemont earthquake the third in the state since December

• Pat DeSmet is Citizen of the Year, several others honored at Hot Springs Chamber Awards Night

• Social media comments get Luke Broyles expelled from Hot Springs Historic Preservation Commission

• Hot Springs School Board approves Capital Outlay for new CTE building

• Judge sides with City of Edgemont in public nuisance case against resident

• Lacey Piazza to move into first-ever Habitat for Humanity home in Hot Springs

• Hot Springs City Council awards Channel Restoration bid

• Incuments Schepler and Worden carry day in Edgemont’s election races

• Teenage juveniles identified by Hot Springs Police in vandalism spree

• Convention of States town hall meeting held in Hot Springs 

• City of Hot Springs OK’d to move forward with Wesch-Oak demolition

• Edgemont Senior Center to re-open for lunch after over a year on May 3


• SHEDCO banquet lauds Fall River business growth

• Wesch-Oak demolition project to commence 3rd week of May

• Uranium mining draws opposing views at county commission meeting

• Belitz earns Governor’s Award for History

• Christopherson is home, healthy with a new kidney

• Edgemont Principal/AD Zachow accepts similar position in Hot Springs

• Volunteers raising funds to convert Umiker Park into Dog Park

• Recital celebrates 5th anniversary of locally-owned Dance Studio

• Three antique guns stolen from Pioneer Museum

• Forest Service’s lumber plan and grazing permits concern commission

• Edgemont City Council agrees to hold hearing on disposal of tax deed properties

• County Commission supports rural attorney Cole Romey in recruitment program


• Hot Springs’ Amber Hulse to crown new Miss South Dakota in Brookings

• HELP WANTED: Evans Plunge closed two days/week his summer, many other businesses modifying practices due to staff shortages

• No significant change in current ag land taxes expected

• Cheyenne Rangers 4-H Mural to depict local foothills landscape and natural history

• Down goes the Wesch-Oak

• Romey re-elected to Hot Springs City Council, Burchfield wins school board seat

• Ag tax information meeting draws about 100 landowners

• Construction company says city ‘dodges bullet’ with demolition of Wesch-Oak

• Country Club Estates becomes recognized ‘Firewise’ community

• Issuing medical cannabis licenses new to county

• City of Edgemont approves temporary ordinance governing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

• County Commissioners scrutinize Solar Farm project coming to Fall River County


• Proposed rancher-owned packing plant still on pace

• Edgemont resident seeks to promote positivity with new ‘Yard of the Week’

• Rapid City man identified as Angostura drowning victim

• Area experiencing strong summer tourism numbers

• Virtual memorial walk planned on 2nd anniversary Chance Englebert’s disappearance

• New owners bringing new life to old Hot Springs sandstone buildings

• Scooter Cannonball riders stopping in Hot Springs on 4,500-mile trek

• Fireworks were hot topic at Hot Springs City Council meeting

• Casting Vets founder seeking group to take over admin duties

• Hot Springs School Board approves expanded 2021-22 budget

• Cheyenne River Animal Hospital adds new hometown veterinarian in Dr. Lacy Stevens

• Director of Equalization addresses high property sale concerns


• City cleanup of Fall River extends to 6th Street dip bridge

• Nebraska trooper arrests two Hot Springs women with five pounds of meth

• Citizens taking control of downtown weeds for ‘Volunteer Clean Up’

• Commission receives thanks from residents of Shep’s Canyon Road

• Joyce Farrell presented Jerry P. Miller Distinguished Service Award

• Hot Springs man dies in motorcycle crash

• Ceremony honors fallen state firefighter Trampus Haskvitz

• Newly formed McColley Vision Fund to benefit Hot Springs

• Hot Springs students begin 2021-21 school year at Tier 1

• Edgemont begins schools with new Principal/AD Barry Scott

• Hot Springs City Administrator John Gregory submits his resignation

• Court authorizes City of Edgemont to demolish 601 4th Avenue residence


• Artist’s gift of giving continues after he is gone (Franz Brown)

• Shells of Time reunite for performance in Hot Springs, benefits local music students

• Former Sheriff Deputy Frank Kistler pleads guilty to felony sex charges

• Commissioners approve raising PILT distribution to 10 percent for schools

• Hot Springs woman dies on Hwy. 79

• Hot Springs Council passes first reading of Cannabis Ordinance

• Beloved ‘lunch lady’ from Hot Springs Schools, Esther Girton, turns 104

• County’s medical cannabis ordinances in holding pattern

• Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame inducts six individuals, one team (Jim Kocer, Leroy Hofer, Kathleen Schjodt, Cheryl Huddleston, Kevin Couch and 1917 HSHS Football Team)

• Area campgrounds report 2021 summertime success

• New CEO Nicky Gilbertson hired at Fall River Health Services

• Edgemont passes Cannabis Ordinances


• 13 Mustangs parade through town for the 13 fallen soldiers

• Couple raises 34 monarch butterflies at their home in Hot Springs

• SHEDCO earns $98,000 grant for workforce recruitment effort

• State rejects Powertech’s request to reopen water permit process

• Multiple arrests stem from dog shooting incident in Edgemont

• Bank of the West closing Hot Springs branch, effective Dec. 3

• Commission passes resolution to keep Fall River County in District 30

• New city ordinance will ban all large consumer fireworks

• Niedermyers leave lasting legacy with gift to location foundation

• Rich Artz selected as new Edgemont Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

• GFP approves camping fees at Sheps Canyon Lakeside Use Area

• Mayor Schepler appoints Brent White to fill vacant seat on Edgemont City Council

• Work on Hot Springs’ newest mural begins


• Hot Springs man (Mark Steffen) wins Deadwood Shootout poker tournament

• Local man grows 700 pound jack-o-lantern for Halloween

• Hot Springs City Council snuffs new fireworks ordinance

• Hot Springs’ Brylee Grill named ‘Young Gun of Ag’ by SDWIA

• Commission to send ag land tax reform resolution to Gov. Noem

• Hot Springs’ Nathan Bellew sentenced to 30 years for drug trafficking

• Lisa Lockhart’s Louie named NFR’s barrel horse of decade

• Hot Springs Council approves Hwy. 385 reconstruction project bids

• State Supreme Court dismisses Herrington appeal, clears way for City of Edgemont to demolish residence

• Innovative ideas on display in Hot Springs School District’s Special Services

• County wants input on how commissioners are elected

• Feathers ruffled at Edgemont Council Meeting over proposed chicken ordinance


• Hwy. 385 bids awarded by state; work to commence Spring 2022

• Tax deed property auction nets $138,000 for City of Edgemont

• Ryan Walz celebrates 20 years as a Hot Springs Police Reserve Officer

• Commission retains its at-large election method

• Captain Jennifer Winscot hired as new Hot Springs Chief of Police

• Prairie Hills Transit resumes services in Edgemont

• Financial subsidy unneeded for Evans Plunge, Southern Hills Golf Course

• New Hot Springs fireworks ordinance sees first reading passed

• Spitzer trial postponed for fourth time until Jan. 4, 2022

• Edgemont School Board meets to discuss options for addressing building needs

• Gladys Pullins of Hot Springs loves being Santa’s helper as Mrs. Claus

• County accepts its lone Cannabis Dispensary application from D27, LLC

• Lisa Curnes is named new director of VA Black Hills Health Care System

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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