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Seeing the sights in Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus, photos by David Malhalab, MNS Photo/M News Service

Washington Pavilion is the place to be
Going “old school” can be cool, Sioux Falls proved as the host city took Small Market Meetings Convention (SMMC) delegates a couple of miles from the Sioux Falls Sheraton and convention center to downtown’s Washington Pavilion for the SMMC’s opening-night reception and dinner.

Built of ruddy Sioux quartzite, Washington Pavilion was once “the largest high school in the United States,” with some 2,500 students, Larry Toll, the complex’s president, told the crowd as they sat down to dinner on the stage of the pavilion’s 1,800-seat Mary W. Sommervold Hall.

Downtown parking became a problem, so the school moved out of downtown, and the city turned the old school into a wide-ranging arts and cultural center, with a children’s science center thrown in to make things even more entertaining.

During the opening reception, SMMC delegates perused the three floors of the Kirby Science Center. They could check out Sue, a replica of the 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton found in South Dakota. On the opposite side of the lobby, art galleries filled with work by local artists were open for viewing.

And, of course, the lobby prefunction area bustled with crowds mingling around a bar and an appetizer buffet as they listened to a string quartet that played in the entrance lobby one floor below.

But the evening’s highlight was dinner onstage in Sommervold Hall, where everyone felt starstruck beneath the theater’s soft lights.

S’mores at 70 degrees

Even in broad daylight on a 70-degree day, nothing beats s’mores and a campfire. And so no one declined the chance to sandwich Nutella, peanut butter, jelly and a fire-roasted marshmallow between a couple of graham crackers at the Outdoor Campus, an outdoor life adventure center,  on the edge of Sioux Falls, S.D., not far from the Empire Mall.

Staff there had set up a s’more assembly line by a small campfire behind its museum, next to its 100 acres of prairie and woodlands.

The Outdoor Campus is a way to be outdoors without being in the wilderness. It can be an interesting place for off-site adventures or team building. Visitors can study stars, examine bugs, cast for fish, cross-country ski or cook in a Dutch oven.

The Outdoor Campus and its sister facility in Rapid City are funded by hunting and fishing licenses.