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Right at Home in Davis

Owner Cinda Wilson refills coffee cups at the Solace Farm General Store.

Just like the traffic flowing through on Highway 18, or the tumbling waters of the Vermillion River northwest of town, the people of Davis always seem to be moving. The traditional late-winter community play, monthly flea markets and poker runs at the Davis Bar are part of a never-ending list of annual events that keeps the place busy, yet welcoming, for visitors.

Davis is home to Solace Farm General Store and Campground, its name inspired by the peaceful nature of the town where roosters crow on main street. Owner Cinda Wilson named Solace Farm the minute she stepped out of her vehicle in Davis and heard nothing but wind and birds. “It just really fit,” she said of the name for her new home after a career in Homeland Security in Sioux Falls and Reno, Nevada. She now runs the store and campground with her sister Karla Romereim. Wilson is also the Davis postmaster.

Open throughout the warm months and on weekends during winter, the Solace Farm General Store is where Davis’ morning coffee group meets. A recent gathering described themselves as “a little of everything — Norwegians and Republicans.” Discussion ranged from snowstorms and politics to waterskiing road ditches while being towed by a pickup.

“Mom used to make stained glass,” Wilson says. “I had made some jam and Karla made sweet cream butter. So, we did flea markets with Mom for a while.” That eventually led to the store, which features nearly 40 flavors of Wilson’s jams, area-made kuchen, chislic, brats, antiques, gifts and giant cinnamon rolls with the morning coffee.

Josh Wiebesiek and Jennifer Beckman rehearse lines for the town's annual Davis Winterstock play.

The exploding popularity of camping during the COVID-19 pandemic helped the campground on the west edge of town grow. “It’s so nice to see people that have driven from cities in the east just decompress when they get out of the car,” Wilson says. “It’s fun to share open space with people who don’t have it.” Campers get a jar of homemade jam and a fresh loaf of bread.

Never a large town, Davis had numerous businesses in the early 1900s, but a series of disasters nearly wiped it off the map. A 1912 fire took all the businesses on the south side of Highway 18 and in 1928 a tornado destroyed most of the town. Today’s Davis Bar was a two-story brick bank building, but the tornado removed the top floor. Periodic flooding along the nearby Vermillion River has damaged and destroyed property as recently as 2019.

A community tradition began in 1983 when Davis Winterstock was founded, providing area families with generations of volunteer onstage opportunities and a different play performed each year. Longtime cast member Stacy Andernacht proudly pointed out that the show is a fundraiser. “Nearly every improvement in town is from the play,” she says, including the playground in the city park and new roofs on buildings. Proceeds have also helped cancer patients.

The show originally toured area towns and was once performed at Mount Rushmore. Performances are now held in the Davis American Legion Hall each March. The late winter timeframe came about because that’s when the cast and crew — all farmers — had time. The production still tries to avoid planting and basketball seasons.

Cast members admit that professionalism isn’t the biggest priority. “The audience comes to see us perform, not necessarily to see a great play,” quipped Mindy Fischer. “We are paid in laughter.”

Almost everyone involved in this year’s Davis Winterstock production can name other family members who’ve been in the play multiple times. “It’s a big family affair,” says director/actress Charlene Overgard.

Alice Kvigne's Davis Bar is the center of many events throughout the year.

Generations of families are a common theme involving most everything in Davis. Fire Chief Troi Andernacht joked about “drawing the short straw” for his second term as fire chief. His two sons and wife are all part of the town’s emergency crews.

Darts, pool leagues, predator hunts, tractor pulls and runs, Tater Days and Thistlefest mean something is almost always going on at Alice Kvigne’s Davis Bar. “Redneck Days may be coming back as well,” she laughed. “That one is for kids and kids-at-heart. We have dumpster diving, a hub cap toss, whatever seems fun.”

Poker runs involving cars, motorcycles, tractors or any other vehicle are always welcome to make the Davis Bar one of their stops. “Anytime someone has a cause we make them feel welcome,” Kvigne says.

Hospitality, whether it’s a stop at the bar or a gift of jam and bread, takes many forms in this tiny town along Highway 18.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the May/June 2023 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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