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Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, December of 2013.
Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, December of 2013.
Hartford
Hartford
Menno
Menno
Dell Rapids
Dell Rapids
Dell Rapids
Dell Rapids
Garretson
Garretson
Garretson
Garretson
Colman
Colman
Madison
Madison
Madison
Madison
Beresford
Beresford
Alcester
Alcester
Salem
Salem
Howard
Howard
De Smet
De Smet
Lake Preston
Lake Preston
Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, December of 2016.
Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, December of 2016.
Flandreau
Flandreau

Lighting Up the Night

Dec 12, 2018

I grew up in the country. Going to town always felt like a treat, especially before I started school. Every December, Isabel’s Main Street, which also happened to be a state highway, was adorned with holiday decorations hanging from the light poles. It wasn’t much, just a swirl of a wreath above a red bell and colored lights that turned on with the streetlights. It was, however, enough to make the trips to town for ball games, evening church services and other activities a little more enjoyable. Songs at church turned into carols and were sung a little louder. Soon there were get-togethers, baked goodies and gifts.

At one time, our town had two grocery stores. One of them had few aisles of general store items where you could find shoes, clothing and other odds and ends. There was also a hardware store, a cafe, a candle shop and three gas stations. When Christmas rolled around, you could find gifts right there in town. Of course, most people would take the trip to Mobridge, or Bismarck, North Dakota or to Rapid City to do the serious Christmas shopping, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Between circling what we wanted in the Sears catalog and pointing out which fishing lures and how many .22 shells we wanted at the hardware store, you could get Christmas done just fine in our little town.

Later, as I outgrew toys and grew into high school athletics, the addition of holiday lighting on Main Street meant something else: the start of high school basketball season. I’d see those lights go up and know that the first games of the year were right around the corner. Back then, the Little Moreau Conference had its tournament at the beginning of the season, and it was held in Isabel for all my high school years. Our team fared well with the hometown advantage, good players, good coaches and great fans. The Isabel Community Hall would be rocking on those nights in early December and Main Street would be full of cars, cheer and those holiday decorations. Those are great memories.

Back in 2013, I happened to be on Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls during an early December snowfall. It was a snow globe kind of evening, with giant flakes and no wind. It was so beautiful I had to get my camera out, step into the middle of the street and snap a few photos. I’ve never been one to shoot a lot of city scenes, but there was something special about all the lights and leading lines of the street falling off away from me. This December, I resolved to revisit a few smaller towns to capture a bit of this simple beauty on our main streets during the Christmas season. I used a tripod and shot long exposures with a high aperture to get the star filter effect and the light streaks from passing cars. I think they add visual interest. On my last loop from Salem to De Smet to Flandreau just a few nights ago, I stopped in Lake Preston and was both surprised and happy to discover that their decorations are the same as the ones we had in Isabel. I couldn’t help but be swept back into a wave of holiday memories.

Decorations and fond memories are fun, but the simple beauty of colorful lights reminds me of why Christmas celebrations come around in the first place. On a starry night long ago, we all were given the greatest gift of a babe swaddled in a lowly manger, and, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

Comments

09:23 am - Thu, December 13 2018
Joyce Stradinger Gerhart said:
I grew up in Isabel, too, though I have been away from there for over 50 years. Thank you Christian for your photos and article. Brings back lots of great memories.

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