Faron Wahl, Manager
A healthy portion of the traffic passing through our gates originates in our immediate region. We treasure and rely on folks from this area who have made Prairie Village part of their lives. But our story spreads far beyond that local footprint.
I doubt many people realize what a diverse cross-section of geography is represented by our guests. During 2017 alone, as of mid-July, we’ve hosted visitors from at least 36 U.S. states – plus one Asian country and five European ones. Not bad for a historic preservation site located in a frontier state, situated 20 miles from an interstate highway and only open seasonally.
That list grew richer this past week when we experienced a personal touch of Italy. I was contacted in May by our friends with the SD Dept. of Tourism, who were working on hospitality arrangements for an Italian journalist and her family to be traveling through our state on their cross-country journey. I quickly accepted the invitation to provide a night’s stay on their itinerary.
Francesca, Roberto, and their son Paolo were gracious guests and a real treat to get to know. Francesca is a writer and blogger who shares experiences and perspective via multiple social media. She is documenting extensively their U.S. travels, which will include writings about Prairie Village.
While the most prominent cultural gap between us would seemingly have been that their primary language is Italian, no such barrier developed during their visit, thanks to both parents’ deft command of the English language. Five-year-old Paolo demonstrated initial shyness, but quickly warmed up and began asking questions via his parents’ translation skills. Adorably, he also began writing his name and other important figures to me on Corn Palace sticky notes.
Much can be gained from a walking tour and chat with folks from other nations. It might seem as though they were the ones here to learn, but quite the opposite also took place. And as you might imagine, our differences were completely eclipsed by our similarities.
This family spent their time here doing things just as guests from Brookings County might have. They are raising a son with similar joys, challenges, and hopes as a classic American family. They connected with our desire to preserve history, and our threshing show heritage was not a difficult concept to grasp, as wheat is raised and combined in Italy much as it is here today.
We talked about agriculture’s position in South Dakota, both historically and as our primary economic force. I learned we share common challenges of needing more young people to return to farming, even though it represents a smaller overall piece of Italy’s economic pie. These visitors weren’t employed in ag, but they appreciated its importance the way all of us should, regardless of nationality or position on the globe.
As I provided a personal, inside look at the village, I found myself wanting to spend a few hours reversing roles, as I was drawn in by their anecdotes shared through beautiful, easily understood Italian accents. Their stated desire to take in the authentic American experience drove a great desire in me to somehow take in theirs.
Our visit also served as a reminder that I need to brush up on international details. As we entered our Ash Grove Church, I ventured an inquiry regarding what faith or denomination was most prevalent in Italy. Politely refusing to make me look ignorant, Roberto replied, with no hint of obviousness, “Roman Catholicism – you know, with the Vatican there and all”. Duh.
I believe this family left the village happy and armed with what they came for, but as these things go, I doubt any of us learned or grew more than me. We will continue to warmly welcome visitors from nearby and great distances, and the village will be a better place for every one of their visits.
Come out and enjoy Sherwin and Pam Linton and the Cotton Kings in the air-conditioned Opera House, Saturday, July 29 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available at our gift shop or by calling 256-3644. This will be a great concert featuring the sounds of classic country. See you there!