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Man’s art fills Chamberlain with holiday spirit

The statues that tower over Chamberlain are a reminder of the impending holiday season every year.
Published: Dec. 25, 2020 at 4:11 PM CST
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Chamberlain, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - If you drive through some of South Dakota’s smallest towns, you will see remarkable light displays on many homes and businesses.

However, one South Dakota town takes their own approach when it comes to decorating for the holidays, in large part due to the work of one city employee.

Jerry Kistler is just like many residents of Chamberlain. Hard working, passionate, and a deep appreciation for Christmas.

What sets Jerry apart is how that appreciation for Christmas manifests itself.

“The (Christmas) tree was built in 2013, candles in 2014, Santa Clause and the snowman in 2015, then we skipped a couple years,” says Kistler.

Kistler, 77, is a part-time employee with the city of Chamberlain. He has an extensive background in welding, and the city has put his skill to good use over the years. Outside of his Christmas statues, Jerry has built bike racks, a dock, and many other things around Chamberlain.

When it comes to the Christmas statues, it takes Jerry and a few of his helpers to get them done, given the sheer size of them. He says that when he builds the statues, he eyeballs the measurements and dimensions.

“I just go off pictures,” Kistler says. “If somebody shows me a picture I try to duplicate it in my head, how I am going to do it. I don’t know how I do it,” Kistler shrugs. “I just do it.”

The statues are a hit in the community, and throughout the region. So much so, that the buzz starts with the season change.

“It starts about October,” says Donna Buche, “Sparkle Committee” chair and local resident. “You know, it is like ‘What is Jerry going to do this year?’ The community is involved.”

As their town continues to generate buzz throughout the region, locals continue to just enjoy Christmas time in their community.

“This is a great town, and at Christmas time it couldn’t be better,” says Buche. “I have family who travel through to just look at these decorations. I take a lot of pride in our community, and in our town.”

Kistler says that for as long as he is physically able to keep making the Christmas statues, he is willing to do so.

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