Monday, September 21, 2009

Not Infinite Variety, but Variety

I can't honestly say I recall what brought this to mind - when you daydream as much as I do you lose track -but it recently occurred to me that while South Dakota isn't exactly a beacon of diversity, each of the cities in which I've lived as an adult has a distinctly different rhythm.

Rapid City is a summer tourist town. Yes, it has a military base nearby and is a regional hub of year-round commerce, but the pace picks up noticeably during the summer. Hotel rates go up (the sheer number of hotels is a big indicator of the nature of life there), the smaller attractions that close during the off-season dust off the shelves, and the traffic gets silly with people trying to find the road to Mount Rushmore, which thanks to past political shenanigans doesn't connect directly to I-90 and requires people to run a gauntlet of local businesses. The ridiculous growth of the Sturgis motorcycle rally has made August almost impossible to handle, and indeed many Sturgis residents leave during that time, renting their homes out for enough money to make a few house payments.

Vermillion has a much more intense, but completely opposite, seasonal contrast. It is a stereotypical college town; it consists of USD, the necessary support system, and a few miscellaneous businesses. It's a small city during the school year and a small town during the summer. This has advantages; when I moved there the gas company waived their deposit when they found out I wasn't a student, and being a steady customer built a good relationship with the local merchants. However, there is a sense that the town is geared for the students, not the residents, which rankled a bit on occasion and contributes to many people who work at the university not living in Vermillion, adding to the contrast.

Pierre's swings are relatively minor. The annual influx for the legislative session is the only event that shakes things up a bit, but it's only a few weeks. There are seasonal activities that affect certain businesses (fishing, hunting, boating), but the overall pace of life is fairly consistent for most people. There isn't anything that completely changes the character of the whole community, unless you count the annual goose migration, which definitely adds a certain, shall we say, texture, especially to the sidewalks around Capitol Lake.

Overall I have to say that I don't have a preference. Each city has it's ups and downs, but the local rhythm wasn't really a factor for me. If I had to choose, I'd probably go with Vermillion as a small town close to larger ones, but I have no serious qualms about any of them.