Chef Chris Hanmer

Top Chef of the Bravo TV Show “Top Chef – Just Desserts,” Chef Chris Hamner tells the story of bringing his craft to South Dakota and his passion for welcoming visitors. You can find his desserts at CH Patisserie and Parlor Ice Cream House in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Top Chef of Bravo’s “Top Chef – Just Deserts,” Chef Chris Hamner brought some sweet treats to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Courtesy

 

Prairie Berry’s Sandi Vojta

Sandi Vojta explains the history behind five generations of making wine with local South Dakota fruit, leading to a successful tourism industry. You can find the production facility and large tasting room in Hill City, South Dakota, along with an additional tasting room in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sandi Vojta explains the history behind five generations of making wine with local South Dakota fruit, leading to a successful tourism industry. Courtesy

 

Custer State Park’s Lydia Austin and Chad Kremer

Follow along with Lydia Austin, Custer State Park’s interpretive programs manager, and Chad Kremer, Custer State Park’s bison herd manager, as they detail their favorite sites and activities in the park and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Chad Kremer, Custer State Park’s bison herd manager, details his favorite sites and activities in the park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Courtesy

 

Mount Rushmore’s Cheryl Schreier and Blaine Kortemeyer

Cheryl Schreier and Blaine Kortemeyer recall their memories seeing Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Black Hills for the first time.

Cheryl Schreier recalls seeing Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Black Hills for the first time. Courtesy

For more information on South Dakota, visit TravelSouthDakota.com.

Stephen Yellowhawk was born in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was inspired to dance and learn more about his culture primarily from some situations that arose in his schooling. His grandfather then created his first regalia, and he started dancing at 14 years old.

“Traditional dancing and my Christian belief have strengthened my self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and love for all my relatives,” Stephen said. “It has opened many doors and created many paths for my family and I.”He has been the board president for the Black Hills Powwow Association for 10 years and has seen this powwow become one of the largest in the world.

“This leadership opportunity is a blessing for me. My grandfather has told me stories of coming to visit Rapid City in the 1950s, and things were quite different here then,” Stephen said. “He says he remembers seeing signs on some of the store fronts that said ‘No Indians allowed,’ but now to have one of the largest powwows in the world in this same community shows how far we have come as a community, working on building bridges within our diverse community.”

The Black Hills Powwow has become one of the largest in the world. Courtesy

For more information on Rapid City, visit VisitRapidCity.com.

The stories Jason Morsette tells aren’t found on websites, social media or television stations. The stories told by the descendent of Dakota Sioux, Arikara and Hidatsa ancestors are passed down through generations, many of them orally.

Jason, who shares his stories with visitors to the Fort Berthold Reservation, does so to keep the history of his ancestors and his culture alive. He loves answering questions and telling stories.

“The dumbest question is one that is not asked,” Jason said. “If you really want to know something, and it’s important, you’ll find a way to obtain the knowledge. It’s a passed-down tradition. I have this knowledge from what my father passed on, and from family members.”

Visitors can arrange to meet Jason at the Earthlodge Village in New Town, where he explains the lodges, the gardens and the importance of the lake to the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara).

He does so with an understanding not only of his own culture, but of others as well.

“Being able to understand all cultures is important,” Jason said. “It’s breaking a barrier of cultural acceptance. The non-Native world has traditions and culture, too, and we have to be open to what they have to offer.”

Jason Morsette, left, keeps the history of his culture alive by telling its stories to visitors at the Fort Berthold Reservation. Courtesy Ben Gumeringer

For more information on North Dakota, visit NDTourism.com.

Don’t be surprised to see a personable pup working alongside her National Park Service ranger-partner when you travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. “Bark Ranger” Gracie is a well-trained border collie tasked with keeping wildlife away from (human) park visitors in busy areas like the Logan Pass parking lot. She’s specially trained to move wildlife like bighorn sheep or mountain goats away without any physical contact. She intimidates them with her stare and moves them just far enough away so they can still be seen and photographed by visitors. Gracie does not work with predators like bears, and she has proven more effective than traditional hazing techniques like shouting or arm-waving.

Habituation occurs when animals have repeated contact with and lose their fear of humans. Habituated wildlife may appear tame, but they are still wild animals and can be aggressive or dangerous.

When she’s not working, Gracie and her handler often chat with visitors about staying a safe distance away from wildlife. They are wildlife safety ambassadors and even have an Instagram account. You might see her working in her orange vest at Logan Pass during the summer, happily posing for a selfie – or just enjoying belly rubs.

“Bark Ranger” Gracie looks back at Ranger Mark Biel while watching a herd of bighorn rams grazing just downhill from the Logan Pass parking lot in Glacier National Park in July 2017. Gracie and Ranger Mark prevented these sheep from ever entering the parking lot. Courtesy National Park Service/Alice W. Biel

For more information on Montana, visit VisitMT.com.

Like the famous mining town he calls home, Rick Shaffer is inviting, quirky and unapologetically proud of his community. So much so that he’s the self-appointed “prime minister of hospitality and goodwill” of Historic Wallace, Idaho – the small town bold enough to claim the title of “Center of the Universe.” Boasting a 100-plus-year run as the world’s largest silver producer, Wallace and residents like Rick welcome visitors to experience the area’s unique perspective.

Rick’s background in hospitality brought him to Wallace via New York City to manage properties including The Wallace Inn and Stardust Motel. Encouraged by Wallace’s colorful history and culture – including mining wars, gambling and brothels – Rick decided to stay permanently and is nearing three decades as a Wallace resident.

Inspired to “do whatever it takes to keep Historic Wallace in the public eye,” the idea of the prime minister was born.

“My creating this now-universal self-appointment was sewn in the knowledge that any entity that wishes to remain famous or known has to be unique. Historic Wallace is about fun and creating memories. I take it upon myself that whomever I come into contact with leaves Historic Wallace with all of this and more,” Rick said.

Rick Shaffer is the self-appointed “prime minister of hospitality and goodwill” of Historic Wallace, Idaho – which boasts the title “Center of the Universe.” Photo Courtesy Idaho Tourism

For more information on Idaho, visit VisitIdaho.org.

Ramona Holt grew up as a promoter of the West, having participated in kids’, intercollegiate and professional rodeo. For 30 years, Ramona and her husband, Bill, traveled throughout the Western United States, Canada and Australia promoting professional rodeo and the West. In 1989, when Montana celebrated its centennial, she had the honor of starting the first parade prior to the Western Montana Fair. Today, as a trustee representing Western Montana for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center, she recommends people and ranches to be honored each year. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association honored her as the “Notable Lady of the West” at its World of Rodeo Reunion in Las Vegas in 2018.

Her life has been dedicated to telling the story of the Western way of life through many avenues, including the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, Destination Missoula and Glacier Country Tourism. Ramona says, “The best way to perpetuate our beloved Western way of life is to encourage our youth to participate in 4-H, FFA and rodeo. These programs develop responsibility, dedication and the desire to do your very best.”

Open by appointment, the Holt Heritage Museum – located in Lolo, Montana – houses rodeo and Western artifacts including 20 horse-drawn vehicles and boots from famous celebrities.

Ramona Holt’s Her life has been dedicated to telling the story of the Western way of life through many avenues. Courtesy

For more information on Western Montana’s Glacier Country, visit GlacierMT.com.

Jon Walters loves the Fargo-Moorhead community … almost as much as he loves the outdoors. Originally from a small town in Wisconsin called Kewaskum, he spent a lot of time in the wilderness to keep himself entertained. Between Boy Scout adventures, countless family outings and living in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, his life was spent in nature year-round.

After moving to Fargo in 2014, he became heavily involved in the startup community and had the opportunity to be involved with the beginnings of 1 Million Cups Fargo. In the spring of 2016, he founded Nature of the North in hopes of building a thriving outdoor community that embraces local outdoor recreation. Since then, the company has slowly expanded, hosting workshops to teach important outdoor skills that allow attendees to gain confidence in their abilities. The first brick and mortar location was opened in 2020 with the area’s first retail public climbing wall. They also provide guided tours, adventure-planning services and one-on-one training.  Learn more by following them on Facebook.

Fargo-Moorhead transplant Jon Walters hopes to build a thriving outdoor community centered on outdoor recreation. Courtesy

For more information on Fargo-Moorhead, visit www.VisitFargoMoorhead.org.

Detour (Thomas Evans) is a Denver street art muralist known for large-scale, abstract portraits of influential people in his life. Check out this video to learn more about Detour and his colorful murals in Denver’s RiNo (River North) Art District.

While retaining its industrial character, RiNo is home to many urban food halls and craft breweries on the Denver Beer Trail. RiNo is a hotspot for artists, foodies and designers with street art murals around every corner. Every September, Detour and other muralists from all over the country take over RiNo during CRUSH Walls, a weeklong, free public event celebrating street art that has been responsible for curating hundreds of murals in RiNo over the past decade.

Detour (Thomas Evans) is a Denver street art muralist known for large-scale, abstract portraits of influential people in his life. Courtesy

For more information on the Official Gateway City of Denver, visit VisitDenver.com.

Wyoming State Sen. Affie Ellis is a passionate representative for women, Navajo people and Wyomingites. Once a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, who served as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Affie gained valuable federal regulatory and legislative experience. She is also a former assistant attorney general of Wyoming.

In 2016, Affie was the Republican nominee for the Wyoming Senate in the 8th District, and defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Floyd Esquibel. She began her first term as a state senator in January 2017, becoming the first Navajo and first Native American to ever serve in the Wyoming State Senate.

Affie has a strong background in federal Indian law and policy, is a member of the Navajo Nation, and serves on the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprises Board of Directors. Today, she’s also on the Select Committee for Tribal Relations, Senate Education Committee and Senate Revenue Committee.

Affie was born to a working-class family in Jackson and spent weekends cleaning motel rooms with her mother. Now herself a working mother of three in Cheyenne, her story of success is one of self-starting and stepping up.

Sen. Affie Ellis is the first Navajo and first Native American to ever serve in the Wyoming State Senate. Courtesy

For more information on Cheyenne, visit Cheyenne.org.

Explore Fossil Butte National Monument and its fossil quarries

Located in beautiful southwest Wyoming, Fossil Butte National Monument is one of the largest deposits of freshwater fish fossils in the world. In prehistoric times, this part of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake ecosystem. The area’s calm water, lack of scavengers and fine sediment all worked together to create the perfect conditions for preserving fossils. Fossil Butte quarry program participants meet at the Nature Trail and hike a half-mile to the quarry, where they learn about ongoing research at the site and help rangers search for fossils. All fossils found during the program are collected by Fossil Butte and contributed to the site’s scientific research. Anyone planning to attend a quarry program should wear hiking shoes, pack water and sun protection, and expect the program to last for about an hour and a half. Fossil Butte’s visitor center acts as a museum for this ancient site, featuring a number of exhibits that display over 300 fossils. In addition to the fossils and rich history of the butte, visitors can take a ride along the site’s Scenic Drive, stop for lunch at a designated picnic area or attend a ranger program.

Fossil Butte National Monument. Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism

Local Sweet Spot – Star Valley Chocolate Cafe

Located in the growing rural community of Afton along the banks of Swift Creek, Star Valley Chocolate Cafe is a local favorite and a must-see (and eat) for any traveler with a sweet tooth. These handmade gourmet chocolates and caramels are all made on-premises, and visitors have the opportunity to taste wonderful espresso drinks made from beans ground right in front of them. Locals often crave the famous hot chocolate, which is made with homemade chocolate syrup and served with foaming, piping hot milk and a whipped cream topping that cradles chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles. There are a variety of syrups from which to select for any latte or steamer, along with muffins, cookies and truffles to die for. All chocolates and candies are made by the beloved owner chocolatiers and are just waiting to be enjoyed.

Star Valley Chocolate Cafe. Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism

Experience the Historical Atlantic City – Atlantic City Mercantile

This incredible town transports you back to the 1800s, when the West was wild and hard work was fueled by aspirations of a better life. Near South Pass City, this booming mining town enjoyed short-lived prosperity starting in the late 1860s. Atlantic City had nearly 2,000 miners, many of whom were vacationers or part-time prospectors looking to score gold, so the town had many options for leisure and entertainment. During its heyday, the town reportedly had a brewery, dance hall and opera house. Many original log homes and structures still remain, including a church and general store. Be sure to stop by the Atlantic City Mercantile, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

Atlantic City. Courtesy @sloandickey


For more information on Wyoming, visit TravelWyoming.com.