South Dakota attractions get boost from `Nomadland’

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Posted at 2:25 PM, May 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 17:25:49-04

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Tourist attractions in South Dakota that appeared in the Academy Award-winning film "Nomadland" are seeing an increase in visitors.

Reptile Gardens animal park and Wall Drug Store, a sprawling, cowboy-themed roadside attraction, are both reporting an early bump in tourist traffic, the Rapid City Journal reported Saturday. Both were in “Nomadland,” which won best picture, best director and best actress Academy Awards.

The movie follows Fern, a 60-year old widow living in her van and taking odd jobs as she meanders the American West. Badlands National Park, Wall Drug and Reptile Gardens are among the places featured.

Wall Drug Store has seen a 114% increase in sales over 2019 while year-to-date for 2020 showed a 92% increase, said Chairman Rick Hustead.

“If it was up 10% we’d be happy, but these are extraordinary numbers,” he said. “I think we’re going into a huge season.”

Hustead said the family was approached in 2018 for the movie.

“It was amazing,” he said.

Reptile Gardens curator Terry Phillip said he spent an entire day filming with the crew. He believes the film will boost tourism for the whole state.

“You can’t go wrong with that in any way, shape or form,” he said.

The state Tourism Department also anticipates a large number of visitors.

“Overall, what you’ll find is we certainly noticed that film drives a great amount of inspiration for consumers,” said Katlyn Svendsen, global media and public relations director for the department.