Brookings, South Dakota made me discover and learn new things outside the conventional quarters, while at the same time advancing my intellectual capacities.
I spent many years of my life in the United States wading through feet of snow just to get from point 1 to point 2 during worse winters. In Brookings, I learned to shovel snow in frigid temperatures. Frigid, meaning, -20F and below! I learned to appreciate a number of winter activities unfamiliar for a guy coming from a country of nothing but rain and sunshine.
I learned to fish. I learned the ways to flying a glider. I learned to ice skate. I learned to listen to tornado warnings. I learned the culture of the Native American. I learned to eat healthy and get fit. I learned the culture of a number of Latin countries. I learned to treasure friendships.
The last one is the most special. When everything looked new and strange, when trapped in the binding curse of a lifeless day, when I felt like in a big bubble rolling on a strange planet, friends came in droves offering encouragements and pats to the back. Being so far away from home, life, in unexpected situations, ushered more gloomy moments than much-needed breathes of comforts. Yes, I did run and spread my arms in the middle of cornfields when lonesome times pestered me. However, triumphs in the cruel encounter of remoteness were more memorable when friends were there.
I am missing my friends terribly, as much as I am missing Brookings town! As I am typing this post, hundreds of miles separate me from them. Gone are the days when I had to spend nightly hours at Cottonwood with Chri-Chri, RiRi, RoRo, and JaeJae. Gone are the days of early-morning weekend fishing. Gone are the days when 3 PM meant a walk to the Union for coffee. Gone are the days of late Sunday grocery shopping. Gone are the days of flying with the glider. Gone are those days…
I left Brookings for good and for a greener pasture. I left the town bringing with me good memories of the place, the events, and the people. The zillions of little bits and pieces of memories will be kept alive as I venture forward.
… because there are reasons Brookings has a place in my heart.
1. Wecota Hall Along Medary Avenue
Countless sleepless nights were spent in Wecota Hall. In all my years of doing the PhD degree, I had occupied a room at the dungeon (aka the basement), in the first floor, and finally in the second floor. Wecota saw me at my lows and highs as a student.
My life as a student and as a research assistant in SDSU was dyed-in-the-wool to seeing the building daily, to marveling its rooms and, most appropriately, to exploring the grace of its floors. Wecota was the best place to get projects done or to laugh with peers till wee hours.
2. The Towering Campanile
The iconic structure of Brookings towers above all else. It is so special that it has been part of the SDSU logo. I had so many photos taken with this tower. And so did my friends. Mom too. Unfortunately, I’d never gotten the chance to climb the stairs of the Campanile. Some said that it has 179 steps to the top. There you’d have a good look at Brookings town and beyond.
3. Single Means Double At The Dairy Bar
In the heat of summer, stop by at the Dairy Bar and enjoy SDSU’s delightful ice cream flavors. From cookies ‘n cream to vanilla, there are more than 60 flavors to chose from. A ‘single’ order gets you two ice cream scoops!
Java coffee is also served inside the Dairy Bar. There are cheese products for sale as well.
My friend JaeJae is working here and this is the place I constantly annoyed her.
4. Everything Happens At The SDSU Student Union
There are food and refreshments, and a big place to study, meet friends, and even daydream. There are rooms for short meetings and big events. The Student Union is the place to enjoy afternoon breaks from study and work. My friend Ashis and I usually visit The Union for coffee at the Starbucks station. In my first semester in SDSU, lunch time with colleagues was at the Union Market.
5. Let’s Get Physical At The Wellness Center
The fitness-conscious people flock this building for cardio exercises, wall climbing, and weight-lifting routines. There’s the weekly yoga too. There’s the indoor running track. And the indoor basketball courts. It was about three years ago when I started going to the gym. The desperation to lose weight was fueled by my Filipino friends who joked at my ballooning size, and said that I had eaten too much ‘fat-foods’ (fast-foods) in the USA. That was during my last visit in the Philippines in September 2011. From 195 lbs when I first hit the gym, I was down to 145 lbs in just 3 months of everyday running and watching my food intake. With the right combo of weight lifting and cardio, right now at 155 lbs, I am more toned and feeling fit.
Tip: To avoid the influx of gym goers, try hitting the gym around closing time — between 10 PM to 12 midnight.
6. Hillcrest Park Picnics And More
I could not count the number of times I had picnics at Hillcrest. Latino picnics. Filipino picnics. American picnics. You name it.
There are a number of sheds to choose from, depending on the size of the party. There are power outlets, grilling areas, running water — what else can you ask for? In the same vicinity, you can enjoy a plunge at the Aquatic Center’s leisure pool and a game of tennis at the courts, all free of charge.
For the availability of the park’s facilities, visit the Brookings, SD official website.
7. Summer At McCrory Gardens
The garden offers not just a vast space for group picnics but a variety of colors to see and behold. Every summer, with flowers adorning the garden, McCrory attracts photographers, newly weds, and ordinary tourists like me. The past year, an activity center was constructed to cater big events.
8. No Place Like Cottonwood Coffee Downtown and Bistro
My nighttime “refugee camp”. Call me a coffee loyalist who happened to find the right place to stabilize my sleepy head. An hour or two inside the coffee shop with other Cottonwood Coffee loyalists, sipping my favorite caffeinated, drowsy-head-quick-fix drink, is more than enough to gratify my caffeine-longing palate.
9. Swing And Sing At The Prairie Lanes Bowling Alley And Karaoke Bar
“Spare! Strike!” Prairie Lanes is the only bowling place in Brookings. It is not the most beautiful bowling alley I’ve been to, but it is more than enough to satisfy the bowling enthusiast in me.
There is a bar inside the building that holds karaoke sessions every Wednesday night. In the many instances I sang “Losing My Religion”, I realized that there were only two or three who could actually carry a tune. The rest, well, never mind. But who cares about singing in tune, anyway! Inside a karaoke bar, anything goes. A dose of alcohol is all what it takes to keep the mic rolling and for everyone to have fun.
Did I already mention how popular country songs are in Brookings?
10. Ground Round Restaurant And Karaoke Bar For Your Friday Night
There’s a different atmosphere in the way karaoke sessions are held in Ground Round. Maybe because of the location, which is in a hotel. Maybe because of the good food served at the restaurant. Maybe because they can find the song that has been ringing in your head all week long. My Latin friends asked for some Spanish songs, and they found and played them!
After you sing, there is always someone, either the intoxicated guy in the next table or the waiter, who would say how good your singing was. You will never go out of Ground Round not feeling appreciated!
Karaoke sessions are held every Friday evening, starting around 10PM.
Location: 2500 East 6th Street, Brookings, SD 57006. Tel. No. (605) 697-5357
11. The 24/7 WalMart And Hyvee
My first few days in Brookings was spent thinking how to go to a supermarket to buy food. Knowing nobody and without a transportation, I had to walk at long distances just to buy ready-to-eat meals. Imagine this: an Asian guy, alien to strong winter storms, wading through the snow from Wecota Annex to Walmart just to buy his weekly supply of food!
For new students reading this, or if you are still to arrive in this town this Fall, find a friend with a car as soon as you can. When Brookings is all covered with snow, knee-high, it is very impossible to walk to WalMart or even to the nearest fast-food chain. And if you are someone who owns a car, give the new international students free rides. Bring them with you when you shop. It would not only make your day but, most of all, you would earn a friend.
The moment you own a vehicle, visit the much-farther store — Hyvee! Unlike Walmart, the goods are a little pricey. However, Hyvee has a section for those following a healthy lifestyle regimen, which I really love. Also, don’t miss to try the eat-all-you-can buffets. At a price of about $10, you can enjoy a variety of cuisines, including a salad bar that serves the greens, fruits, soups, and desserts.
12. Because A Filipino Has To Try King’s Wok Chinese Buffet
When my Indonesian friend, Belinda, was still in Brookings, King’s Wok was our place for pigging out. Chinese cuisine is not foreign to both our tastes. We both loved the green beans in savory sauce and the mussel topped with cream. After Belinda left the town for good, very rarely do I find myself eating at King’s Wok. My love for Chinese food died when she left. Just kidding!
Craving for some mussels? King’s Wok is open for lunch and dinner.
Location: 1811 6th St, Brookings, SD 57006. Tel. No. (605) 692-9373
13. Tuesdays At Taco Johns
“Can I have menu #7 please?” That’s the number of Quesadilla EZ combo from Taco John’s. The combo is composed of Quesadilla (a delicious blend of cheeses, fresh-made pico de gallo and tangy chipotle cream sauce grilled in a soft flour tortilla with your choice of beef or chicken), Potato Olés, and a soft drink. I might have a knack for anything shaped half-moon and cheesy, because, believe me, I had this menu every Tuesday for lunch for as long as I can remember. I had tried the Super Burrito and the Tacos but nothing replaces my quesadilla. My friend, Chris, can attest to this!
Location: 609 Medary Ave, Brookings, SD 57006. Call: (605) 692-7524
14. Touch Down At The Coughlin Stadium
This is the home of the SDSU Jackrabbits and the Brookings High School Varsity Bobcats.
This stadium is where I had my first experience of watching American football live. I never liked the game, honestly, for two reasons. First, I never understood the rules, nor the scoring. Second, this game of stacking people, literally, one on top of the other, has never been played back home in the Philippines.
My first experience would have turned out terrible if not because of friends who shouted at every running, or passing, or tackling. Would I watch football again? With the right company, I would, certainly.
15. The Agricultural Heritage Museum
I see this building almost everyday, situated adjacent to Wecota Hall. The Ag museum is “dedicated to preserving South Dakota’s rich agricultural history and rural heritage.” Two of my friends are working in here.
See the website for the visiting hours.
16. The University President’s House
AKA the Woodbine Cottage. It is the President’s historic home — the house I never failed to see every single day from my office window.
17. The South Dakota Art Museum And Its Fine Arts
Just a stone’s throw away from Wecota Hall, I visited the place quite a number of times for new art exhibits. Viewing of art displays is free.
For visiting hours, check this link.
18. Cafe Latte
It serves coffee brewed from European beans. It is the only shop in town that serves the fudge, a Western confectionery. It is also the only coffee shop in town that has a drive-thru. My afternoon Sundays are spent in Cafe Latte with hot sips of brewed Americano. For students wanting to have a quiet place to study, the place is open until 9PM everyday, WiFi-free.
19. New Movies At Brookings Cinema 5
The only one cinema in Brookings, South Dakota. It has 5 small screening rooms with each having less than 100 seating capacity (I think). As a frequent moviegoer, I visited Brookings Cinema 5 almost every week, regardless of the day. Tuesday night is usually a discount night — you pay like $2 less. For regular nights, adults pay $8 and children is charged $6. This is probably cheaper compared to other cinemas in big cities outside SD.
For the latest movies in the cinema, see this link.
20. Cold Hobo Days Celebration
Two years ago, Hobo Days had its centennial celebration and I was there.
In this annual parade, expect to see kids running around with their candy buckets, students chanting “Jackrabbits!”, and young and old alike curling in camping chairs with their comforters, as marching bands played festive beats in a usually 20 degree F cold Saturday morning.
21. Larson Ice Center: “It Is Okay To Fall”
The place that witnessed how my ice skating skills sucked big time! While almost everyone was gliding and sliding and turning and spinning and even moon-walking, I was mostly at the sides, praying not to fall, taking a few steps at a time and wondering how to continue inching forward. After the fifth visit, I was finally able to find the right reflexes and to balance without someone helping me and glide without looking down.
Here’s for more info of Larson Ice Center.
22. Brookings Summer Arts Festival Brings So Many People In Town
Over the years since I first attended the Brookings Summer Arts Festival in 2007, there is one convincing reason why I spent more than an hour at the park — it is the Filipino food booth. This annual festivity in July fills the Brookings Pioneer Park with art displays, food varieties, antiques, and entertainment (of course). I believe it is one of the biggest art events in South Dakota that is visited by thousands of people over a two-day period.
23. Laugh. Be Inspired. The Prairie Repertory Theatre
The annual Prairie Repertory Theatre (PRT) offers four shows happening each summer. There are also some shows in the Fall. For quality entertainment, PRT is the event not to miss. Whether you want to see a talking donkey in “Shrek the Musical” or how a butler turns out after drinking a love potion in “The Lone Star Love Potion” or what happens when a walking dead appears in school in “Zombie Prom”, there is always the right mix of storyline for everyone.
For SDSU students, the shows are free (One of the reasons why I watch the shows. The other reason is, my talented friend Natalia aka Natica is part of the theater group).
For updates of coming events, visit the PRT website.
24. It Is The Taste Of Brookings
The event when local restaurants compete for the people’s vote. Who’s cuisine will reign supreme?
Taste Of Brookings happens downtown, on Main Ave.
25. Loud Sirens During Tornado Warnings
Believe it or not, I will miss the tornado warnings that come with summer in Brookings. The photo below was taken right after the storm. In all my years in Brookings, I’ve never ever seen a tornado touched down. Oh well, I probably should not wish for it.
26. Brookings Bike Show
27. Colors At The SDSU International Night
While there is a China Nite, Nepali Nite, India Nite, and Africa Nite (all happening in the Spring semester), there is also a nite intended for all countries. The annual International Night in November showcases various cultures through song, dance, drama, international cuisine and other presentations. Sponsored by the Office of International Affairs, the event is usually held at the Volstorff Ballroom in the University Student Union.
The event is open to the public. Tickets are sold prior to the event and at the door. Last year, prices for tickets were: $15 for adults, $5 for children 12-and-under, and $10 for SDSU students with an ID.
28. The Beautiful Winters
The temperature can go down to -40F at times. Yes, winters in Brookings are not fun at all, especially when the extreme cold lingers for so long. However, there are few moments that are more of an exemption than a rule. This is when the season becomes a magical winter wonderland.
29. Leaving Footprints In the Snow On Worst Winters
My story in one not-so-fine winter day.
“Filled. No more humps. Street gutters are unrecognizable. No more yellow lines. Everything is white that you tend to lose the concept of colors. Apart from the endless snowfall, my morning hike to work will be a breeze — nothing will ever stop me from traversing on foot and singing in the snow. Geared for the battle, I put on my ever-enduring coat that have lasted many worse winters, including my ninja headgear outfit that I sometimes find ridiculous efficient. Ridiculous since it really makes me look like a fighting ninja. Efficient since nothing compares at how it makes my head so warm.”
“I was all alone in my journey. Although the visibility was low, I could still see a car crossing an intersection 5 blocks away. And that was the only moving thing I saw the entire trip. Around the first bend, my enthusiasm began to retrograde. A huge pile of snow, courtesy of the Brookings snow plowing trucks (thank you!), hindered my tracks. I took a deep breath and held my cool. I crossed the street and transferred to the opposite sidewalk. The farther I went, the worse the sidewalks became.”
“No one was cleaning the sidewalks. No one cares a fig! Not even halfway to the office, I was walking, no, wading through knee-deep snow. I wonder why there are areas in this town where snow accumulates faster than others. My old apartment in the intersection of 11th street and 7th ave, was one of them. Those feet of snow others got in hours, we got in minutes. Ah, must be because of the wind directions. I remember having a mountain of snow in our front yard, while the houses a block away barely had a foot thick.”
“My hope to be in the office that morning suddenly faded when I realized that my jeans were wet from the knee down. Too much snow-wading resulted into melted snow soaking into my shoes and socks. My feet felt cold and I had no option but to go back home.”
“The moment I turned back, I saw there was only one set of footprints. “Is it the Lord’s?” I asked. “During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Did the Lord carry me? Nah, it was mine.”
30. Dine At Pheasant Restaurant
If you find yourself in Brookings, pay the Pheasant Restaurant a visit and enjoy great food in a local atmosphere. I had so many wonderful times here with friends and even had my graduation lunch with my family.
There is also the Monday Jazz Night to jazz your night away.
Like the Pheasant Restaurant Facebook Page.
31. Prayer Warriors At Pius XII Newman Center
The Pius XII Newman Center is where the University Catholic Church is located. There are many spiritual warriors in SDSU. Visit the Newman Center or even the St. Thomas Moore Church and notice that majority of the church goers are students.
In a liberated country like the U.S., my idea of a church service is no more than what I experienced in Europe. That only few American teenagers still believe in God’s great promises. I was proven wrong though at the sight of an army of God – students earnestly praying and ready to announce the Good News. Young men and women that I first thought know no place but a night pub were present. They are the warrior children, who together laze around in joy at what they have done with their lives, how they have prayed.
The Pius XII Newman Center is located on campus. The St. Thomas Moore Church is about 2 miles away from campus.
32. Great Fall Season Feel
The trees inspired me to write one article before. There was a day I counted the number of leaves that have actually fallen. Hundreds. No, thousands of them did bid the branches farewell.
While I am trying to follow their daily fate and relish their myriad colors before they would finally succumb to the winds, I am also led to think that the trees are merely taking a new stage, changing the old to something unsullied, akin to snakes changing skins. As part and parcel of their changing, trees have to undergo the essential phase so as to relieve themselves from dealing with old stuff and create a new atmosphere and a new beginning.
Oh how could I possibly evolve like a tree, ever willing to change and bloom anew?
33. Wing and Brew Festival
This 2014 was the 9th annual Wing & Brew Festival.
Usually, the gates open around noon. Two big tents — one for the chicken wings and another for the brew sampling. The highlights of the events include a car show and the wing-eating contest.
34. This Lake and Fishing Area on 22 Ave S.
It is about 1.5 miles from The University Mall. Leave a comment below if you know the name of the lake/park. I never learned how to fish with a hook, line, and sinker until my Ukrainian friend Val brought me to this lake. What an awesome feeling reeling in your first ever large catch!
Fishing is for those with the longest patience. If you feel like throwing your fishing rod to the lake because no fish took the bait 10 minutes after casting your line, this hobby is not for you.
35. Gliding At The Brookings Regional Airport
The easiest way to touch the clouds, literally, is to go gliding. Gliding is less scary than skydiving. While the latter may seem to harness the power of adrenaline due to a quick drop, the former is better in providing a worthwhile flying experience in a much longer time. The first time you try gliding, there will be heart-thumping. It is the same feeling when you ride the roller coaster the very first time, that same sensation when the coaster begins to drop down a steep slope. At times after take-off, you may feel your heartbeat skip, especially during the first few minutes. The “skipping feel” is usually normal, as the glider experiences few sporadic bumps caused by a small powered tow plane connected to it by a rope.
About five minutes. That is how long the bumpy ride will take. However, there is, as a matter of fact, nothing to worry at all. You glide with a trusted pilot. First-time gliders sit in front, while a licensed pilot seated behind you mans the flying craft. The pilot often warns you of a bumpy first few minutes and assures you that after the tow plane detaches itself from the flying glider, everything will be smooth sailing (or flying). And it will be smooth gliding in the next 40 minutes of airborne!
36. Festival of Lights Parade
The event happens in December when participating vehicles are decorated with Christmas lights as they run along Main Ave, downtown of Brookings.
Experience the feel of the holiday through this spectacle of light. This will thrill visitors of all ages.
37. Glenn, That Is His Name!
He is Glenn! Blackness in Brookings should be identified with Glenn who bikes around town with two colored triangle flags and a two-wheeled cart behind. He sometimes stays in the middle of the road; warning lights flickering in front and at the back of his slow-moving wheels. I cannot count anymore the number of times this man has said hello to me when we crossed paths usually around midnight.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Glenn checks garbage bins for things that can be recycled and he does it when its dim and blackness has already silenced the dogs and people in deep slumber. When he reaches a slope, he gets off the wheels and pushes the load forward, slowly as if he is mathematically calculating the limiting friction, the force when equilibrium is on the point of being broken by his load sliding on the sloping concrete. I have hopes to talk to this man someday and ask him about living in general. I am certain there is more to this man than what meets the eye and his story is worth for the books.
38. Sully’s Irish Pub, Skinner’s Pub, 9 Bar and Nightclub, Cubby’s Sports Bar and Grill
These are downtown bars where I enjoyed bottles of Red Horse while singing karaoke amidst drunken people.
Just kidding. There’s not even a Red Horse in here!
With a wide selection of beers and cocktails, these are the places to be in at night when planning to be intoxicated until wee hours in the morning. Some bars have pool tables. Some have slot machines. For your dance moves, few have platforms to keep you groovin’.
39. You, My Friends, Make My Life Easier
In Brookings, I had the grandest opportunity to meet and make lifelong friendships!
I always take care of my friends the best way I can. That is how I see myself as a friend. I think friendship is really about caring and trusting and assuring that whatever the circumstances may be, you would be there for each other. For friendship to work, it must be a mutual relationship.
Unlike a mere acquaintance, friendship does not happen in a second. It takes time to develop. You can never say someone has become your friend after meeting him or her once. It takes more hellos and chats to culture a feeling of trust and care.
Most of the time, I initiate a talk to collect my so-called “friendsters”. The initiation, almost always, determine the outcome of a probable follow-up chat. When I sense that we don’t match in character (although this is shallow a reason to conclude that very instance), I usually don’t mind just giving a smile, shaking hands and saying goodbye.
As I wrote in the beginning of this post, I will forever treasure the memories I had with my Brookings, SD friends.
Until we meet again. Someday. Somewhere.
I believe that there are still more to add to this post. But I will stop at #39 for now. Someday, I may write the next chapter. Maybe when I visit Brookings, SD again.
Where to stay in Brookings, South Dakota.
Super 8 Brookings Sd (around $85 a night)
Situated in Brookings, Super 8 Brookings Sd is close to McCrory Gardens, South Dakota State University, and Edgebrook Golf Course. Also nearby is Children’s Museum of South Dakota. Super 8 Brookings Sd has an indoor pool and a spa tub. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. There is a business center on site. Guests are served a complimentary breakfast each morning. Additional amenities include laundry facilities and complimentary newspapers in the lobby. Complimentary self parking is available onsite for guests. The 5 guestrooms at Super 8 Brookings Sd include air conditioning. Complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access is provided. Rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs with cable channels. In-room microwaves and refrigerators are provided.
Quality Inn (around $94 a night)
Situated in the heart of Brookings, Quality Inn is close to McCrory Gardens, South Dakota State University, and Edgebrook Golf Course. Also nearby is Children’s Museum of South Dakota. Guests are served a complimentary breakfast. In addition to a fitness center, Quality Inn features complimentary newspapers in the lobby. Wireless Internet access is complimentary in public areas. Self parking is complimentary. The 50 air-conditioned guestrooms at Quality Inn include coffee/tea makers and hair dryers. Guests can use the in-room complimentary wireless high-speed Internet access. Televisions are equipped with cable channels. All accommodations provide phones along with free local calls (restrictions may apply). All units feature microwaves and refrigerators.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brookings (around $120 a night)
Situated in Brookings, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brookings is close to McCrory Gardens, South Dakota State University, and Edgebrook Golf Course. Also nearby is Children’s Museum of South Dakota. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brookings has an indoor pool, a spa tub, and a fitness center. Additional amenities include multilingual staff, laundry facilities, and coffee/tea in the lobby. Self parking is complimentary. Guestrooms at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brookings offer complimentary newspapers and coffee/tea makers. Televisions are equipped with premium cable channels. All accommodations provide desks along with free local calls (restrictions may apply). In-room microwaves and refrigerators are provided. Additional amenities include hair dryers and irons/ironing boards.