DEADWOOD, S.D. – It’s a town that basks in the glow of its most famous resident. And even though he only lived there for about three weeks, he’s a legendary figure of the old west having earned a reputation as a lawman and gunfighter. On August 2, 1876 Wild Bill Hickock was gunned down in the Number 10 Saloon on Maine Street while he was playing cards.
A young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked in and shot him in the back of the head. The hand Hickock held at the time, two pair of black Aces and black eights, is now forever known as the Deadman’s Hand. McCall was later tried, convicted and hanged.
That’s just one of the true stories out of this honest to goodness wild west town in South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills. Gold mining started it, it burned to the ground a few times over the years and eventually became the state’s first gaming destination. With that and abundant recreational opportunities, Deadwood is now a bonafide tourist destination with thousands of people visiting the historic, canyon town.
Today you can walk down Main Street past the casinos, hotels and restaurants and feel the history. Many of the original buildings remain, repurposed from their once dubious past of brothels, saloons and flop houses.
This August we were there for the yearly Kool Deadwood Nites celebration. Thousands of people descended on the town to take in the re-enactments of Wild Bill’s untimely end and take the tour past haunted hotels and up to the graveyard where Wild Bill forever rests next to Calamity Jane, his constant companion, friend and protecter.
But the highlights of this festival are classic cars and classic rock music. During the day, the cars are parked in lots and along streets. Thousands of them shined and shown by their proud owners. There’s even an auction where a ’70 Baracuda went for $58,000 after a bidding war.
Some serious car buffs make their way here. At night, Main Street is set up with a huge stage at one end with four blocks of lawn chairs in front. An estimated 10,000 people were there this year to watch the shows.
Among this year’s entertainers were the Grass Roots, The Boxtops, The Lettermen and the Happy Together Tour.
Click the photo above to listen to my radio feature and hear some of the artists talk about their first “classic” cars and hear Director of the Chamber and Visitor’s Bureau Lee Harstad talk about his beloved town.
The weather was great, the activities are Kool and the history comes alive in this place. It’s a vacation my wife and I really enjoyed and we plan on returning some future time for another round of South Dakota history, music, classic cars and hospitality.