CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — The atmosphere was electric at Custer State Park Friday morning as thousands of people from near and far gathered to watch the 56th annual Governor’s Buffalo Roundup.
“I have the feeling that the whole area just like vibes, and there’s like a very special vibe since everyone’s here for the Roundup – everyone you meet is super excited about it – it’s great,” says Oscar and Manyedi, spectators from Hamburg, Germany.
Thousands of the parks signature bison herded and corralled just in time for winter.
“It’s a critical herd management tool for us – it’s our one opportunity to get a closeup look at our bison herd and make sure they’re healthy,” says Kobee Stalder, Visitor Services Program Manager at Custer State Park.
A sight unlike any other, made possible by riders and park support staff ensuring the safety of bison and visitors.
Nearly 1,400 bison have been rounded up into the corrals, where they’ll stay for two weeks. They’ll be branded, they’ll be sorted, they’ll be vaccinated, and they’ll test the cows to see if they’re pregnant. About 300 of them will be auctioned off on November 6.
Almost sixty cowboys and cowgirls come from all over to lend a hand in the herding process, like they’ve done for half a century.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s the best adrenaline rush on the planet – we get to use our horses and we get to help the park and this herd of buffalo that you’re gonna see,” says Kimba, a 12th year Custer State Park Roundup Core Rider, and her horse, Faith.
Among the riders was Governor Kristi Noem and Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden.
Gov. Noem says, “I had my two girls riding with me and my son-in-law and nephew, and Larry had his son and daughter-in-law riding with him too. For us, it’s not just about promoting the state – it’s not just about the genetics of this herd and how well-respected they’re known around the world – but it’s also a family event.”
The Roundup is Custer’s biggest event of the year and a major draw for South Dakota tourism.
Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen says official tourism numbers will be released in January, but they’re expecting a record-breaking year.