May 31: Winner Drive-In Theatre, Winner SD

It’s Day 151 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. After my brief stop near Carhenge in Alliance NE, I drove about four hours to return to South Dakota. My destination was the Winner Drive-In Theatre, just southeast of Winner SD.

As you can see from the YouTube video above, the Winner features a curved screen, a grassy playground area, and rows of outdoor seating.

The Winner reopened last Friday for the 2017 season. It was built in 1950 by Harvey Fast, then widened in 1955. The Fasts added that playground equipment in 1960.

Betty Fast, Harvey’s widow and owner of the Winner, told the Rapid City Journal in 2014 why she bought a digital projector that year. “It is an expensive switch, but it’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing,” she said. “I want to do it and the community needs it.”

“The people that come, they aren’t my customers, they’re all my friends,” she said.

In 2015, KWYR had a great video tribute including interviews with Betty Fast and other drive-in workers. That’s where I learned that Winner has a tradition of handing out Tootsie Rolls at the ticket booth, and that the drive-in uses what is only its third popcorn popper.

Some drive-ins are only open on weekends, others are open seven days a week. Then there are drive-ins such as the Winner, which is open Fridays through Mondays. All of which left me out of luck on a Wednesday night, but it gave me time to look ahead and plan the next couple of weeks. It’ll take a few more miles, but I’ll keep the dark nights to a minimum this summer. I hope.

Miles Today / Total:  227 / 19520 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 68

Nearby Restaurant: The Holiday House is a fine local restaurant that serves a little bit of everything. I had the broasted chicken, but any place that serves steak and shrimp and beer already has a lot going for it.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Although I was amused to read the Super 8 here advertise itself as “within walking distance” (1.5 miles) from the drive-in, I went upscale and chose the Holiday Inn Express instead. A clean, comfortable room in the evening and a hot breakfast in the morning. I’ve been limiting myself to just one cinnamon roll each time I stay at a HIE. This demonstrates willpower.

Only in Winner: According to Wikipedia, Winner is the county seat for an adjacent county as well as its own, Tripp County. Okay, technically, it’s just the administrative center of Todd County, but you get the idea. And Winner was named for the fact the town had emerged the “winner” as Tripp County’s most successful trading point.

Next stop: Hilltop Drive-Inn Theatre, Gregory SD.