Summer concerts in South Dakota

The winter months are slow ones for music lovers in South Dakota. The state’s cities and arenas are small by metropolitan standards, so indoor concert options are generally limited.

It’s an entirely different story during the summer, however, when South Dakota’s wide open spaces fill up with the sounds of music so diverse as to prove the state’s unofficial nickname, "Land of Inifinite Variety." We South Dakotans have been reminded of that during the past few weeks, when many festival and fair organizers announced their entertainment lineups for this summer.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Probably the biggest venue with the biggest-name entertainment is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Aug. 3-9. The huge Buffalo Chip Campground draws upwards of 30,000 people to some of its concerts, which this year will include George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Toby Keith, Lita Ford, Billy Squier, Cheech and Chong, Aerosmith, Saving Abel, Tesla and Hinder.

The motorcycle rally and especially "The Chip" are for adults only. Things get pretty wild at the rally, where watering holes, scantily clad female bikers and swimsuit contests are plentiful.

LifeLight Music Festival

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the motorcycle rally is the annual LifeLight Music Festival in Sioux Falls, a three-day Christian music festival that this year will run Sept. 4-6. The festival has drawn upwards of 100,000 people per day in the past, and this year promises to be another big draw with acts including Newsboys, Kutless, Superchick, Lincoln Brewster, Rush of Fools, December Radio, Downhere, Stellar Kart, Esterlyn, Family Force 5, Thousand Foot Krutch, Disciple and The Michael Gungor Band.

Fairs and festivals

August and September are fair and festival time in South Dakota, with the biggest of the annual events being the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls, the Central States Fair in Rapid City, the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen, the State Fair in Huron and the Corn Palace Festival in Mitchell. Country and classic rock are the two most common genres at these events.

Following is a summary of the the fair and festival entertainment lineups announced so far for this summer.

  • Sioux Empire Fair, Aug. 11-16: Alice Cooper, Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy, Peter Frampton.
  • Central States Fair, Aug. 21-30: Chris Cagle and Heidi Newfield, Rodney Atkins, Blake Shelton and Styx.
  • Brown County Fair, Aug. 17-24: Heidi Newfield, Luke Bryan, Rodney Atkins, Herb Dixon and Blake Shelton.
  • State Fair, Sept. 3-7: Foreigner (more announcements to come).
  • Corn Palace Festival: Aug. 26-30: David Cook, Ronnie Milsap, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Blake Shelton.

Other events

Other popular events for music lovers include the Sioux Falls JazzFest July 17-18, which is billed as "two stages, 18 bands, and over 90,000 people." During the Fourth of July weekend, the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village will host a string of outdoor concerts by the American Indian band Brulé (information about that event does not appear to be available yet on the Internet).

There are surely other concert events that I’m forgetting, but you get the picture: If you’re looking for music, a South Dakota summer offers something for every musical taste.

Categories: Events, Outdoor Activities

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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