The Nicest Place in South Dakota: Rapid City

NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
"City of The Presidents"

Each winter, people drape coats, gloves, and scarves on the town’s statues. It’s for the needy to take, and it’s the best clothes drive ever!

Each winter, people drape coats, gloves, and scarves on the town’s statues. It’s for the needy to take, and it’s the best clothes drive ever!

They call Rapid City, South Dakota, the “City of Presidents” for good reason: It’s the gateway to Mount Rushmore. The streets in this town of 68,000 nestled in the shadow of Black Hills National Forest are lined with statues of our nation’s elected leaders. And in winter, something really nice happens that dwarfs the towering stone faces of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt: Walk down any street and you’ll notice those statues are adorned in warm coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. This isn’t some juvenile prank—it’s a clothing drive.

Every winter, Rapid City civilians clothe the statues with garments the homeless can grab to stay warm. As items disappear, volunteers place more on the statues until the cold weather dissipates.

The project began in the winter of 2015, when a local knitting group teamed up with a church.

“Almost, depending on the day, the items are taken as soon as they’re placed there. It is meeting a need every winter,” says Darrell Shoemaker, a spokesperson for Rapid City.

And if that’s not enough, the people in this city treat each other as if it’s just your regular small-town America.

“Here in Rapid City, if a resident or a visitor stops you on the street corner and says, ‘Hey, can you tell me where Business A is or where Park B is?’ no matter what it is, people will drop what they’re doing,” Shoemaker says. “If your car breaks down, there’s somebody there to help you out.”

The Editors

The Nomination

Beautiful, friendly, clean, and the 50 mile surrounding history is unmatched. Not to mention Mt Rushmore, Deadwood, and the Sturgis Rally~

south dakota rapid city nicest placeBenjamin F Sullivan/Shutterstock
This “City of Presidents” is the gateway to Mount Rushmore.
south dakota rapid city nicest placerobert cicchetti/Shutterstock
The famous tourist attraction brings in the people, but the folks of Rapid City keep them warm.

Every corner down town has a presidential statue. During the winter they are adorned with hats, scarves and jackets for the homeless to take and keep warm. We have a downtown Square that has events scheduled almost every day during the summer (plus a kids movie event once a week in the evening), all for free.