Vermillion, S.D. Population: 10,571.
For some students moving into Vermillion to attend the University of South Dakota, the number can generally warrant one of three reactions: indifference, shock and horror or excitement.
For some, a 10,571 population is abysmal compared to the surroundings they’re used to. For others, the number 10,571 represents an opportunity to experience life outside a small or rural town.
Either way, the truth of the matter is that Vermillion is a history-rich town that has continued to grow in population since its incorporation in 1877. It’s a town that serves as the bridge between community life and campus life.
The problem, as some city and university leaders might say, is a lack of general knowledge of options in the town.
The Downtown Vermillion Action Team launched a website earlier this year called downtownvermillion.com, which seeks to serve as a center of information on stores and entertainment options downtown. The site includes menus from restaurants, a directory of shops and restaurants as well as a community calendar
“We’ve been working since 2005 to make people more aware of what’s downtown,” said Paula Keller, a Vermillion resident and member of the Downtown Vermillion Action Team.
Keller said there are many annual and scheduled events downtown that most students are unaware of – events she said would interest them.
“The students don’t know what’s there,” she said. “There are over 90 businesses and services down there and people don’t think about that. They don’t think that they can go down there to look for things, like gifts, hardware, art galleries, a lawyer or yarn.”
Senior Michael Bruning has experienced both ends of the spectrum, as a show-attendee as well as a performer in downtown Vermillion. Though many students don’t know about the opportunities, Bruning said he’s never been at a loss for something to do.
“I’ve been here for four years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been like, ‘Gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to do this weekend,’” he said.
While part of the problem might be general lack of knowledge, the other part of the issue might be that students don’t think they can benefit. Attending shows and sharing in other art forms is enlightening and an important part of college life.
“It helps you develop yourself as a human being and as an individual if you expose yourself to all sorts of cultural activities,” he said.