Buffalo Roundup bigger than ever

Ron Burtz
It’s called one of the last great events of the Old West, it attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world each year and this year’s Custer State Park (CSP) 54th annual Buffalo Roundup, which takes place this Friday, will be bigger than ever—at least in terms of the numbers of bison being collected. 
“Our numbers for bison are around 1,450 this year,” said CSP visitor services program manager Kobee Stalder, “so, yes, our bison total is up from the previous years.”
Friday morning, dozens of cowboys and cowgirls on horseback and park crews in pickups will  round up the buffalo to drive them into the corrals where they will be sorted, branded and vaccinated in preparation for the fall sale in November. 
As the buffalo approach the valley where the corrals are located, they will be greeted by thousands of onlookers, many of whom have traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to view the spectacle. 
No park entry fee is charged the day of the roundup and gates will open at 6:15 a.m. There are two locations from which the roundup can been viewed. The north parking and viewing area is accessed by heading south on Wildlife Loop Road from the Game Lodge/Visitor Center area. To get to the south parking and viewing area, spectators should travel east on Wildlife Loop Road from Hwy. 87 near Blue Bell Lodge. 
The roundup begins at 9:30 a.m. and the buffalo usually make their first appearance at the viewing area between 11 and noon. 
Viewers are encouraged to bring sunscreen, layered clothing, folding chairs, binoculars, snacks and drinks. However, breakfast will be available at both viewing areas and lunch will be served at the corrals after the conclusion of the roundup. 
Spectators are encouraged by park officials to leave pets at home. If they are brought to the viewing areas, they will have to remain in a vehicle. 
About half an hour after the buffalo are securely in their pens, the work of sorting and working them begins and visitors are invited to watch the process which generally takes about four days to complete. 
The Buffalo Roundup is more than just a one-day event, however, and there are activities and entertainment for everyone starting on Thursday with the Arts Festival and Craft Show. Approximately 150 exhibitors will be selling Native American and Western arts and crafts and South Dakota-made products during the three days of the festival. 
In addition there will be non-stop entertainment featuring dancers, bands and poets. 
Among the entertainers at this year’s event will be the 7th Cavalry Drum and Bugle Corps, Stringbean & Svenson Family, Allen and Jill Kirkham and Greg Hanson and the Backroads. 
Educational programs will be conducted throughout the weekend in the education tent featuring educational talks, bluegrass music, speakers from the surrounding Black Hills area and living history demonstrations. 
The schedule for the festival is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The weekend also features a barbecue cookoff Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. 
The Arts Festival takes place just west of the State Game Lodge along Hwy. 16A where entertainment will be provided under a large tent known as “The Big Top.” 

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