A South Dakota town with a listed population of 5 and a historic general store that bursts at the seams with people only during the Christmas season. It seems like a strange relationship, but anyone who has experienced it - - has apparently spread the word.
Now the "Nora Store Christmas" draws in people from across the country from New York to San Francisco for an event that warms the heart and soothes the soul.
The Nora General Store is located southwest of Alcester and northeast of Union State Park in Union County. The official address for your GPS unit is 30707 475th Ave, Alcester, SD 57001
I had the honor of speaking to Mike Pederson, the founder of this event and the gentleman who plays the extraordinary pipe organ, which, by the way, he and his friends began reconstructing back in the 70s.
So 32 years ago he decided to share the blessing of this remarkable musical instrument at Christmastime. He put an ad in a local paper inviting people to come and sing Christmas carols. And it was a surprise to him, but people came. Lots of people.
Mike told me that he began the whole thing to "bring back a sense of community" and that his "mission" all these years later is to "continue to share the blessings". He still marvels at the number of people who come and from where.
I asked him if the faraway guests have connections to South Dakota. He chuckled and said, "All of them!"
He also says he doesn't "do this for himself", his hope is that "when people come and participate, they'll leave refreshed and full of the joy and unconditional love of Jesus Christ!"
He calls these events, "open houses" because the guests are welcome to come and go, or come and stay. These get-togethers are kicking off right after Thanksgiving for the 33rd year! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this week (November 24, 25 & 26) and continuing for three more weekends. The sing-a-long begins at 6:30 and continues according to Mike, "until everyone leaves"!
Mike will also lead small groups in song by appointment during weekdays. For more information call 605-670-1455.
He also does a matinee gathering on Sundays from 1:30 to 3 PM for people who "don't like driving in the dark".
Mike offers cider and water, but "your other snacks are up to you!"
These musical meetings are absolutely free but donations are accepted. Mike says "That is what has allowed this tradition to continue". These free-will offerings are used throughout the year for upkeep and critical restoration of the property.
The Nora General Store is on the National Register of Historic Places. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with needed repairs so that this heartwarming holiday blessing will continue for years to come!