Gayville Hall

 

502 Washington St.
Gayville, SD (605) 267-2859

The Origin and History of Gayville Hall
(and the building and town which house it)

     The town of Gayville was established ten miles east of the Dakota territorial capital, Yankton, when the Dakota Southern Railroad completed its line from Sioux City to Yankton in 1872. Elkanah Gay, a contractor with the railroad, bought a 100-acre town site from homesteader Halvor Brynelson for a dollar and named the town after himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preston Love Jumpstarts Gayville Hall

 

Doug had recently been awarded a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council and had applied part of the funds to shooting additional scenes of Omaha jazz legend Preston Love and his quartet for a documentary film which is not yet finished. Love played with the Count Basie and Lucky Millinder bands in the 1940s, with his own orchestra through the '50s, with Ray Charles and Motown during the '60s, and with small combos since returning to Omaha in the 1970s. Doug had been shooting footage of Love performing at various venues since 1984. Most of the scenes already shot were filmed in Omaha, and Doug wanted to represent Preston's years of operating his orchestra across the central U.S. by shooting scenes of Love performing in South Dakota, as his band had done many times during the 1950s. Doug helped arrange a noon concert by the Preston Love quartet on Wednesday, May 16, 2001, at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, which he planned to film, but Love requested that Doug also help find another gig for the evening, which prompted Doug to think about the empty store and the good acoustics he'd noted in the space and scenes he could possibly film of Love playing there if he built a stage and put on a concert there. They could call it Gayville Hall, he thought, like Carnegie Hall or Preservation Hall.

Constructing a bandstand in the old grocery store space would be a lot of work for only one concert, whether it were filmed or not, and the Sharpleses would not have built it for only one. They were hungry for a break from the film business after many years of work finishing their most ambitious film, a two-hour documentary about the American writer Jack Kerouac titled "Go Moan for Man," and the daunting task of trying to distribute the movie nationally and internationally. Establishing a local music venue seemed like a wonderfully simple and appealing change of pace, and he and Judi thought that they could possibly do it with the help of four area musicians, in particular, whom they admired very much: John and Susan McNeill, Nick Schwebach, and Owen DeJong.

 

With that in mind, Doug hired artist Bruce Preheim to sketch a pencil portrait of Preston Love for a poster which touted an 8 p.m. concert at Gayville Hall on Wednesday, May 16, 2001. He and Judi put the posters up in Vermillion, Yankton and surrounding communities, sent out press releases to the local papers, and borrowed folding chairs from the Gayville Community Center. About 100 patrons showed up for Gayville Hall's first concert, which seemed like a great success for a Wednesday night in May at a non-alcohol, smoke-free concert venue that no one had ever heard of. The show had a late start when Love and his band, in three cars, got lost on their way back to Gayville from Wakonda, where they had gone to rest between concerts. Stopping at a farm to ask directions, the caravan finally showed up in Gayville at 8:10 p.m. The concert featured Preston's daughter Portia on vocals, and Preston sang a few tunes himself in the spirit if not the style of his old friend, Jimmy Rushing. Preston played alto and tenor saxes and flute in a program of jazz and rhythm and blues standards.

Doug had asked John McNeill to Gayville to help record the Preston Love concert, but the real reason he asked McNeill to Gayville was so that John could see the venue. He wanted John to be Gayville Hall's emcee and a regular performer with his wife Susan at future concerts at Gayville Hall, which they agreed to do. Doug scheduled a second concert three-and-a-half weeks later on Saturday, June 9, starring the McNeills, singer Nikki Abourezk , and Schwebach and DeJong.

 

Doug and Judi Sharples had known John McNeill and Susan Logan since the fall of 1965, when they were students at the University of South Dakota. They socialized together, became good friends, and even shared a Thanksgiving together. John starred in Doug master's thesis film and appeared with him on harmonica once when Doug was a guest lecturer at Oscar Howe's art appreciation class. Doug performed several times in turn with two of John's early musical groups, the Herb Shriner Memorial Jazz Trio and the Five Line Transport Blues Band, at gigs in Vermillion and Yankton. They had remained friends and collaborators ever since. John recorded music for many film and media productions produced by the Sharpleses under the name Cottonwood Productions since 1971. These included the widely distributed drunk-driving film "High Driving" (1979), the multi-image show "What is Corn Palace?" (1977), which played at the Corm Palace for many years, and "South Dakota: A Meeting of Cultures" (1986), among others.

The Sharpleses had first heard and been amazed by the duo of Schwebach and DeJong, who called themselves "The Public Domain Tune Band," at the Kochi Lounge in Yankton in 1979. The musicians lived in the country near Wakonda and recorded background music a couple times for Cottonwood Productions in the early 1980s. Schwebach and DeJong were most widely known since the mid-'80s, however, for their Poker Alice Band, which Schwebach helped found in about 1985 while DeJong was working in Nashville. DeJong joined the band when he returned to South Dakota.

The second concert at Gayville Hall, starring the McNeills, the Public Domain Tune Band, and Nikki Abourezk, was the first of Gayville Hall's "music shows," as Doug preferred to call the concerts, that featured three musical acts or configurations. He considered three acts the ideal, because they would provide variety, something for everybody who might come to a show. The second show only attracted a crowd of 83, however, and doing the ideal seemed unrealistic.

The third concert, which starred the McNeills and the six-piece Dixie Daddys of Sioux City, also attracted an audience of 83. Tickets cost $7 then, so you didn't need a business degree to figure out that the venue was marginal at best. After the third concert, Doug told John McNeill that Gayville Hall would undoubtedly be a financial failure and would have to close unless it could attract larger crowds with less expensive shows. John said, "Well, let's do a Hank Williams show."

The Show That Saved Gayville Hall

"A Celebration of Hank Williams," which starred the foursome of the McNeills, Schwebach, and DeJong, attracted a crowd of more than 200 to the hall and about 50 would-be patrons had to be turned away for a lack of chairs and space. Those who got in were not disappointed. John sang the majority of the songs and beautifully tied the show together with his commentary about the life and music of Hank Williams. Nick played lead and steel guitars and sang Hank's honky-tonk songs, Owen played fiddle, and Susan sang several tunes and played bass. The audience was enthusiastic about the show. One patron, a former professor at the University of South Dakota who was back visiting in the area from Missouri, declared the show "better than Branson."

The viability of Gayville Hall now seemed a possibility, if the right concerts were scheduled, and Doug continued to schedule shows about every three weeks or more often. He also bought 200 folding chairs at an auction near Dell Rapids, so that they wouldn't have to be borrowing chairs for every concert.

It occurred to Doug that if "A Celebration of Hank Williams" could attract 250 people to Gayville, it could attract even larger audiences at higher ticket prices at venues in more populated areas like Sioux Falls. He thought that by taking the Hank Williams show to other venues, he could subsidize Gayville Hall. He booked the Belbas Theatre at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls for both Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, 2001, and generated at lot of publicity for the event, including the cover story in the weekly Tempest tabloid in Sioux Falls. Unfortunately, he didn't see 9/11 on the horizon -- a sobering distraction from music -- or the last minute scheduling of a competing concert by Merle Haggard at the Sioux Falls Arena.

Neither Haggard's nor Gayville Hall's concerts at the Belbas did well at the box office, and the loss made Sharples hesitant to take the show on the road again for nearly a year. When he did, "A Celebration of Hank Williams" and the later produced "A Celebration of Johnny Cash," which starred the same musicians, proved very popular at such venues as the Dell Rapids Opera House, the Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center, the Vermillion High School Performing Arts Center, and the Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa, where Gayville Hall has presented seven concerts, including two outings of Gayville Hall's biggest show, "The Dakota Opry," starring the McNeills, the Poker Alice Band, and Bob and Sheila Everhart.

Gayville Hall has meanwhile featured a great variety of music in seven seasons of concerts at Gayville. Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, of Prairie Home Companion and Grand Ole Opry fame, are perhaps the most widely known musicians who have played the hall, which they have done twice. The South Dakota Jazz Quintet, with C.J. Kocher on saxes and Dave Olson on piano, has played four times. Other favorites have included the off-Broadway and former Red Clay Rambler composer, piano player, and singer, Mike Craver, who has played twice; the great guitar player Harvey Reid; the North Dakota troubadour Chuck Suchy; old-time country music stars Bob and Sheila Everhart; Nashville singer-songwriter Laurie McClain; folk musicians Curtis and Loretta, Bob Bovee and Gail Heil; alternative country and folk artist Joe West; singer-songwriter Gordy Pratt; and many others. A complete list of concert performers is included under Previous Shows.

Any crowd of over about 170 persons appears to be a full house at Gayville Hall, and more than ten times during the first five seasons Gayville Hall had 200 or more patrons. The biggest crowd was about 270 persons at the first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash" on October 15, 2003, when an overflow crowd (at a discounted ticket price for the poor seats) sat in the gallery and at the farthest ends of the hall, where there was hardly a glimpse of the stage. The second largest crowd, about 250, occurred the second time that Gayville Hall presented "A Celebration of Chester Olsen," in April of 2005. That concert, which celebrated the late South Dakota singer, fiddler and instrument maker and the old-time fiddle music he loved, was taped and broadcast in an edited form as a TV special on South Dakota Public Television twice in 2005.

The walls of Gayville Hall and the adjoining Gayville Gallery display art by South Dakota artists Bruce Preheim, Paul Peterson, Bobbie Alsgaard and others, quilts by Judi Sharples' late mother, memorabilia related to Gayville Hall's founders and stars, including photos by John Banasiak of Preston Love's inaugural concert at Gayville Hall, and other displays of Americana, history and vintage sheet music -- from your grandmother's high-top shoes of 1892 (if you're about 60 years old) and her copy of "Red Wing" from 1906 -- to 21st Century posters from Gayville Hall's first seven seasons. Artist April Gawboy of Meckling, S.D., who attended Gayville Hall's first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash," was inspired to create her first painting, an acrylic portrait of Johnny Cash rendered in a vivid folk or pop art style. Portraits of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Chet Olsen, and others, including Gayville Hall's own John and Susan McNeill, followed and are available in the gift shop.

Gayville Hall featured peanuts in the shell (along with soft drinks and other snacks) when it first opened and patrons were encouraged to drop their shells on the floor. The popularity of peanuts seemed to fade, however, and other snacks are now featured, including ice cream bars, along with bottled juices, soft drinks, tea, coffee and water. Admission to Gayville Hall was raised (from $7) to $10 at the door and $12.50 for a reserved seat at the beginning of 2002. In the fall of 2008, the prices were raised to $12.50 at the door and $15 reserved. The concerts, which normally start at 8 p.m., are about two hours long, with a short intermission around 9 p.m.

 

The Home of Old Time Music

A painting by Sara Snow of the Bagstad and Aaseth Building during the early years of Gayville.
 

    The building that houses Gayville Hall was known historically as the Bagstad and Aaseth Building. It was built for one of Gayville's first businesses, the grocery and dry goods store operated by Iver Bagstad and a partner he took on, his brother-in-law John Aaseth. Bagstad, who was born in Norway in 1843 and immigrated to the United States with his parents at age seven, led a wagon train to Dakota Territory from Wisconsin in 1868 and settled four miles west of the present day town of Volin. He owned the first threshing machine in Yankton County and threshed all of the area's grain in 1868.

      After the deaths of his two infant children and his first wife, Bagstad moved into Gayville in 1873 and started the store. The business grew into several different departments: groceries, provisions and crockery; drugs and medicines; dry goods and clothing; and hardware, stoves and cutlery. In addition to general merchandise, the store handled lumber, coal, wood and livestock. It also housed Gayville's post office many years, with both Bagstad and Aaseth serving as postmaster at different times. Under various later owners and operators, the Bagstad and Aaseth Building remained the site of the town's grocery for over 120 years.

     In 1997, Wakonda filmmaker Doug Sharples -- out of curiosity and at his wife Judi's suggestion -- drove to Gayville to observe the auction of the building, which had been owned by a deceased friend, Yvonne Thistle, for a number of years. Thistle was both strikingly beautiful and an intelligent, independent thinker who had been a delight to know. She had grown up on a farm near Gayville, but had lived most of her life in California, where she had married and raised her two sons. She had purchased the building after returning to South Dakota with her husband. She opened a beauty shop in the front and built an apartment in the rear of the old dry goods section of the building. The town's grocery store continued to operate in the rest of the building. Two years after her death, her sons put the building up for auction. About 25 people surrounded the auctioneer in front of the building, so Sharples felt comfortable about being a "nice guy" for Thistle's sons and volunteered the first bid at the auction. To his great astonishment, however, no one else bid.

     Judi and Doug had never desired to be in real estate, but now they were. Fortunately for their investment, the apartment, beauty shop, and grocery store remained occupied by tenants for nearly four years, until March of 2001, when the Gayville Country Store, which had been operated by Gary and Sandy Heier for 15 years, closed. Competition from nearby Yankton and a new convenience store on the highway had made the closing inevitable, but the Sharpleses now had an empty store in need of a new tenant or purpose.

 

Preston Love Jumpstarts Gayville Hall

 

     Doug had recently been awarded a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council and had applied part of the funds to shooting additional scenes of Omaha jazz legend Preston Love and his quartet for a documentary film which is not yet finished. Love played with the Count Basie and Lucky Millinder bands in the 1940s, with his own orchestra through the '50s, with Ray Charles and Motown during the '60s, and with small combos since returning to Omaha in the 1970s. Doug had been shooting footage of Love performing at various venues since 1984. Most of the scenes already shot were filmed in Omaha, and Doug wanted to represent Preston's years of operating his orchestra across the central U.S. by shooting scenes of Love performing in South Dakota, as his band had done many times during the 1950s. Doug helped arrange a noon concert by the Preston Love quartet on Wednesday, May 16, 2001, at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, which he planned to film, but Love requested that Doug also help find another gig for the evening, which prompted Doug to think about the empty store and the good acoustics he'd noted in the space and scenes he could possibly film of Love playing there if he built a stage and put on a concert there. They could call it Gayville Hall, he thought, like Carnegie Hall or Preservation Hall.

Constructing a bandstand in the old grocery store space would be a lot of work for only one concert, whether it were filmed or not, and the Sharpleses would not have built it for only one. They were hungry for a break from the film business after many years of work finishing their most ambitious film, a two-hour documentary about the American writer Jack Kerouac titled "Go Moan for Man," and the daunting task of trying to distribute the movie nationally and internationally. Establishing a local music venue seemed like a wonderfully simple and appealing change of pace, and he and Judi thought that they could possibly do it with the help of four area musicians, in particular, whom they admired very much: John and Susan McNeill, Nick Schwebach, and Owen DeJong.

of the scenes already shot were filmed in Omaha, and Doug wanted to represent Preston's years of operating his orchestra across the central U.S. by shooting scenes of Love performing in South Dakota, as his band had done many times during the 1950s. Doug helped arrange a noon concert by the Preston Love quartet on Wednesday, May 16, 2001, at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, which he planned to film, but Love requested that Doug also help find another gig for the evening, which prompted Doug to think about the empty store and the good acoustics he'd noted in the space and scenes he could possibly film of Love playing there if he built a stage and put on a concert there. They could call it Gayville Hall, he thought, like Carnegie Hall or Preservation Hall.

     Constructing a bandstand in the old grocery store space would be a lot of work for only one concert, whether it were filmed or not, and the Sharpleses would not have built it for only one. They were hungry for a break from the film business after many years of work finishing their most ambitious film, a two-hour documentary about the American writer Jack Kerouac titled "Go Moan for Man," and the daunting task of trying to distribute the movie nationally and internationally. Establishing a local music venue seemed like a wonderfully simple and appealing change of pace, and he and Judi thought that they could possibly do it with the help of four area musicians, in particular, whom they admired very much: John and Susan McNeill, Nick Schwebach, and Owen DeJong.

 

    With that in mind, Doug hired artist Bruce Preheim to sketch a pencil portrait of Preston Love for a poster which touted an 8 p.m. concert at Gayville Hall on Wednesday, May 16, 2001. He and Judi put the posters up in Vermillion, Yankton and surrounding communities, sent out press releases to the local papers, and borrowed folding chairs from the Gayville Community Center. About 100 patrons showed up for Gayville Hall's first concert, which seemed like a great success for a Wednesday night in May at a non-alcohol, smoke-free concert venue that no one had ever heard of. The show had a late start when Love and his band, in three cars, got lost on their way back to Gayville from Wakonda, where they had gone to rest between concerts. Stopping at a farm to ask directions, the caravan finally showed up in Gayville at 8:10 p.m. The concert featured Preston's daughter Portia on vocals, and Preston sang a few tuneshimself in the  spirit if not the style of his old friend, Jimmy Rushing. Preston played alto and tenor saxes and flute in a program of jazz and rhythm and blues standards.

      Doug had asked John McNeill to Gayville to help record the Preston Love concert, but the real reason he asked McNeill to Gayville was so that John could

 

see the venue. He wanted John to be Gayville Hall's emcee and a regular performer with his wife Susan at future concerts at Gayville Hall, which they agreed to do. Doug scheduled a second concert three-and-a-half weeks later on Saturday, June 9, starring the McNeills, singer Nikki Abourezk , and Schwebach and DeJong.

    Doug and Judi Sharples had known John McNeill and Susan Logan since the fall of 1965, when they were students at the University of South Dakota. They socialized together, became good friends, and even shared a Thanksgiving together. John starred in Doug master's thesis film and appeared with him on harmonica once when Doug was a guest lecturer at Oscar Howe's art appreciation class. Doug performed several times in turn with two of John's early musical groups, the Herb Shriner Memorial Jazz Trio and the Five Line Transport Blues Band, at gigs in Vermillion and Yankton. They had remained friends and collaborators ever since. John recorded music for many film and media productions produced by the Sharpleses under the name Cottonwood Productions since 1971. These

included the widely distributed drunk-driving film "High Driving" (1979), the multi-image show "What is Corn Palace?" (1977), which played at the Corm Palace for many years, and "South Dakota: A Meeting of Cultures" (1986), among others.

       The Sharpleses had first heard and been amazed by the duo of Schwebach and DeJong, who called themselves "The Public Domain Tune Band," at the Kochi Lounge in Yankton in 1979. The musicians lived in the country near Wakonda and recorded background music a couple times for Cottonwood Productions in the early 1980s. Schwebach and DeJong were most widely known since the mid-'80s, however, for their Poker Alice Band, which Schwebach helped found in about 1985 while DeJong was working in Nashville. DeJong joined the band when he returned to South Dakota.

       The second concert at Gayville Hall, starring the McNeills, the Public Domain Tune Band, and Nikki Abourezk, was the first of Gayville Hall's "music shows," as Doug preferred to call the concerts, that featured three musical acts or configurations. He considered three acts the ideal, because they would provide variety, something for everybody who might come to a show. The second show only attracted a crowd of 83, however, and doing the ideal seemed unrealistic.

 

 

     The third concert, which starred the McNeills and the six-piece Dixie Daddys of Sioux City, also attracted an audience of 83. Tickets cost $7 then, so you didn't need a business degree to figure out that the venue was marginal at best. After the third concert, Doug told John McNeill that Gayville Hall would undoubtedly be a financial failure and would have to close unless it could attract larger crowds with less expensive shows. John said, "Well, let's do a Hank Williams show."

The Show That Saved Gayville Hall

 

     "A Celebration of Hank Williams," which starred the foursome of the McNeills, Schwebach, and DeJong, attracted a crowd of more than 200 to the hall and about 50 would-be patrons had to be turned away for a lack of chairs and space. Those who got in were not disappointed. John sang the majority of the songs and beautifully tied the show together with his commentary about the life and music of Hank Williams. Nick played lead and steel guitars and sang Hank's honky-tonk songs, Owen played fiddle, and Susan sang several tunes and played bass. The audience was enthusiastic about the show. One patron, a former professor at the University of South Dakota who was back visiting in the area from Missouri, declared the show "better than Branson."

     The viability of Gayville Hall now seemed a possibility, if the right concerts were scheduled, and Doug continued to schedule shows about every three weeks or more often. He also bought 200 folding chairs at an auction near Dell Rapids, so that they wouldn't have to be borrowing chairs for every concert.

     It occurred to Doug that if "A Celebration of Hank Williams" could attract 250 people to Gayville, it could attract even larger audiences at higher ticket prices at venues in more populated areas like Sioux Falls. He thought that by taking the Hank Williams show to other venues, he could subsidize Gayville Hall.  He booked

on saxes and Dave Olson on piano, has played four times. Other favorites have included the off-Broadway and former Red Clay Rambler composer, piano player, and singer, Mike Craver, who has played twice; the great guitar player Harvey Reid; the North Dakota troubadour Chuck Suchy; old-time country music stars Bob and Sheila Everhart; Nashville singer-songwriter Laurie McClain; folk musicians Curtis and Loretta, Bob Bovee and Gail Heil; alternative country and folk artist Joe West; singer-songwriter Gordy Pratt; and many others. A complete list of concert performers is included under Previous Shows.

Any crowd of over about 170 persons appears to be a full house at Gayville Hall, and more than ten times during the first five seasons Gayville Hall had 200 or more patrons. The biggest crowd was about 270 persons at the first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash" on October 15, 2003, when an overflow crowd (at a discounted ticket price for the poor seats) sat in the gallery and at the farthest ends of the hall, where there was hardly a glimpse of the stage. The second largest crowd, about 250, occurred the second time that Gayville Hall presented "A Celebration of Chester Olsen," in April of 2005. That concert, which celebrated the late South Dakota singer, fiddler and instrument maker and the old-time fiddle music he loved, was taped and broadcast in an edited form as a TV special on South Dakota Public Television twice in 2005.

The walls of Gayville Hall and the adjoining Gayville Gallery display art by South Dakota artists Bruce Preheim, Paul Peterson, Bobbie Alsgaard and others, quilts by Judi Sharples' late mother, memorabilia related to Gayville Hall's founders and stars, including photos by John Banasiak of Preston Love's inaugural concert at Gayville Hall, and other displays of Americana, history and vintage sheet music -- from your grandmother's high-top shoes of 1892 (if you're about 60 years old) and her copy of "Red Wing" from 1906 -- to 21st Century posters from Gayville Hall's first seven seasons. Artist April Gawboy of Meckling, S.D., who attended Gayville Hall's first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash," was inspired to create her first painting, an acrylic portrait of Johnny Cash rendered in a vivid folk or pop art style. Portraits of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Chet Olsen, and others, including Gayville Hall's own John and Susan McNeill, followed and are available in the gift shop.

Gayville Hall featured peanuts in the shell (along with soft drinks and other snacks) when it first opened and patrons were encouraged to drop their shells on the floor. The popularity of peanuts seemed to fade, however, and other snacks are now featured, including ice cream bars, along with bottled juices, soft drinks, tea, coffee and water. Admission to Gayville Hall was raised (from $7) to $10 at the door and $12.50 for a reserved seat at the beginning of 2002. In the fall of 2008, the prices were raised to $12.50 at the door and $15 reserved. The concerts, which normally start at 8 p.m., are about two hours long, with a short intermission around 9 p.m.

 

the Belbas Theatre at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls for both Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22, 2001, and generated at lot of publicity for the event, including the cover story in the weekly Tempest tabloid in Sioux Falls. Unfortunately, he didn't see 9/11 on the horizon -- a sobering distraction from music -- or the last minute scheduling of a competing concert by Merle Haggard at the Sioux Falls Arena.

      Neither Haggard's nor Gayville Hall's concerts at the Belbas did well at the box office, and the loss made Sharples hesitant to take the show on the road again for nearly a year. When he did, "A Celebration of Hank Williams" and the later produced "A Celebration of Johnny Cash," which starred the same musicians, proved very popular at such venues as the Dell Rapids Opera House, the Brandon Valley Performing Arts Center, the Vermillion High School Performing Arts Center, and the Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa, where Gayville Hall has presented seven concerts, including two outings of Gayville Hall's biggest show, "The Dakota Opry," starring the McNeills, the Poker Alice Band, and Bob and Sheila Everhart.

      Gayville Hall has meanwhile featured a great variety of music in 11 seasons of concerts at Gayville. Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, of Prairie Home Companion and Grand Ole Opry fame, are perhaps the most widely known musicians who have played the hall, which they have done twice. The South Dakota Jazz Quintet, with C.J. Kocher on saxes and Dave Olson on piano, has played four times. Other favorites have included the off-Broadway and former Red Clay Rambler composer, piano player, and singer, Mike Craver, who has played twice; the great guitar player Harvey Reid; the North Dakota troubadour Chuck Suchy; old-time country music stars Bob and Sheila Everhart; Nashville singer-songwriter Laurie McClain; folk musicians Curtis and Loretta, Bob Bovee and Gail Heil; alternative country and folk artist Joe West; singer-songwriter Gordy Pratt; and many others. A very popular show in  2010 was the appearance of the Rapid City-based  Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road.  Of course, Gayville Hall’s “Fab Four” (John & Susan McNeill, Owen DeJong, and Nick Schwebach) continue to be the main attraction at Gayville Hall.   A complete list of concert performers during Gayville Hall’s first 11 seasons is included under Previous Shows.  

     Any crowd of over about 160 persons appears to be a full house at Gayville Hall, and more than ten times during the first five seasons Gayville Hall had 200 or more patrons. The biggest crowd was about 270 persons at the first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash" on October 15, 2003, when an overflow crowd (at a discounted ticket price for the poor seats) sat in the gallery and at the farthest ends of the hall, where there was hardly a glimpse of the stage. The second largest crowd, about 250, occurred the second time that Gayville Hall presented "A Celebration of Chester Olsen," in April of 2005. That concert, which celebrated the late South Dakota singer, fiddler and instrument maker and the old-time fiddle music he loved, was taped and broadcast in an edited form as a TV special on South Dakota Public Television twice in 2005.

      New, softer seats and extensive renovations featuring additional restrooms were added to the Hall in 2009.  This change reduced the number of seats in the Hall, but made it more comfortable for patrons.

     The walls of Gayville Hall and the adjoining Gayville Gallery display art by South Dakota artists Bruce Preheim, Paul Peterson, Bobbie Alsgaard and others, quilts by Judi Sharples' late mother, memorabilia related to Gayville Hall's founders and stars, including photos by John Banasiak of Preston Love's inaugural concert at Gayville Hall, and other displays of Americana, history and vintage sheet music -- from your grandmother's high-top shoes of 1892 (if you're about 60 years old) and her copy of "Red Wing" from 1906 -- to 21st Century posters from Gayville Hall's first seven seasons. Artist April Gawboy, who attended Gayville Hall's first presentation of "A Celebration of Johnny Cash," was inspired to create her first painting, an acrylic portrait of Johnny Cash rendered in a vivid folk or pop art style. Portraits of Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Chet Olsen, and others, including Gayville Hall's own John and Susan McNeill, followed and are available in the gift shop.

    Gayville Hall featured peanuts in the shell (along with soft drinks and other snacks) when it first opened and patrons were encouraged to drop their shells on the floor. The popularity of peanuts seemed to fade, however, and other snacks are now featured, including ice cream bars, along with bottled joft drinks, tea, coffee and water. Admission to Gayville Hall was raised (from $7) to $10 at the door and $12.50 for a reserved seat at the beginning of 2002. In the fall of 2008, the prices were raised to $12.50 at the door and $15 reserved. The concerts, which normally start at 8 p.m., are about two hours long, with a short intermission around 9 p.m.

 

 

     

 

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