South Dakota Winter Rendezvous
By Corey Hockett
Offers Camaraderie and a Chance to Plan for Summer
To kick off 2017, 24 RMEF volunteers packed for a long weekend and rallied at the intersection of Interstate 90 and the Missouri River on January 6 for South Dakota’s annual Winter Rendezvous in Chamberlain. It was the first of two annual gatherings for RMEF volunteers and members in South Dakota. While most Western states—and many Eastern ones—hold summer rendezvous well-known for their proactive habitat projects, winter rendezvous are less common. For South Dakota, the get-together serves as a planning session for the year ahead. The crew hammers out the details for hands-on habitat enhancement projects and other events that will take place during the warmer months at the Summer Rendezvous.
This year the January event was held at the AmericInn in Chamberlain, and representatives from eight of the state’s 18 committees attended, including six new attendees.
On Friday, the group met for a roundtable discussion and kicked around ideas for new and innovative volunteer projects for the upcoming summer. “Last year at the Summer Rendezvous we had 30 volunteers and completed five or six projects in two days,” says Thomas Slowey, South Dakota regional director. So many volunteers are showing up, there’s almost not enough work to go around. The problem is obviously a good one as more hands on deck mean more work done. But it also presents the logistical challenge of identifying more projects to add to the list. RMEF is currently working with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks and the U.S. Forest Service to do just that.
Attendees had their pick of presentations on Saturday, some educational, others entertainment. Committee members advertised for ladies-only events—banquet-style dinners with hors d’oeuvres, wine and a live auction. And Chad Leighman, a biologist with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, detailed the findings of a 2014 study about causes of elk population declines in Custer State Park.
The night commenced with a roast beef Christmas dinner and a white elephant gift exchange with gag presents. Slowey said his favorite part of the weekend was having volunteers come from both the western and eastern parts of the state and share thoughts, ideas and issues. “That’s the most critical part,” he says. “It’s the camaraderie.”
The South Dakota Summer Rendezvous will be held in Custer, South Dakota, on June 8-11. All are welcome to come get their hands dirty.