Pool partiers soak in last splashes of summer fun

Wild Water West about to close for season, while Gateway Lounge braces for busy NFL crowds
Meanwhile, Gateway Lounge gears up for busy NFL season
Published: Sep. 4, 2022 at 9:44 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer for many of us.

And when we reach this point, it makes us wonder how the summer went into a big black hole. Like every year, the season seems to slip and slide away so fast.

For one last hurrah before work and school routines — and chillier weather — sets in, lakes and campgrounds are popular playgrounds this weekend.

But with city pools closed, the only place in Sioux Falls people can party in public pools is Wild Water West.

And that’s only for one more day. South Dakota’s largest water park will close after Monday.

Which, with sunny, 80-degree weather, makes this weekend one its busiest.

“We just wanted to enjoy some sun, get in the water, cool off a bit, do something different,” said Amanda Merts of Hurley, who brought her young son Ethan to the park, along with his friend Owen Pulscher, also of the Viborg-Hurley area, and his mother.

“Summer’s my favorite season, so, I don’t know, I gotta take advantage of it while I can as we transition to fall.”

For them, Sunday was one last chance to catch a final wave at the state’s largest wave pool, to putt around at the mini-golf course, or to lounge in the lazy river, or go for one last spin at the go-cart track.

Marts and her family are avid campers, but they knew campgrounds would be overcrowded on a holiday weekend, and came to Wild Water West instead. And, Amanda admitted, to make sure a few day passes she received as a gift didn’t go to waste.

The park has seen a significant uptick in traffic this season, compared to a 2021 season dampened by “cruddy” weather, and the summer of 2020, when covid was rampant and the pandemic knew no vaccine.

”Everybody’s just kind of starting to get out of the whole covid lifestyle, and everyone’s starting to come out a lot more,” said Colton Quinn, Wild Water West’s aquatic director.

“And, with expenses going up in certain areas, you know, it’s nice to stay local, and I think people are really eating that up.”

That was a reference to surging gas and airline prices that may have kept some local travelers at bay.

But the great outdoors will be a distant memory to some of us by next Sunday. That’s when the NFL season kicks off, sending flocks of fans indoors to places like the Gateway Lounge, which expects one of its busiest days all year. A Minnesota Vikings versus Green Bay Packers matchup next week will likely ensure that.

”We know it’s going to be packed in here,” said Suzi Cook, a daytime bartender. “We are so excited to see our Vikings and Chiefs fans, and all the fans spend their Sundays with us. We’ve hired extra staff, so we’re going to make sure that we’ve got extra servers, extra bartenders here. We’re going to be ready for it.”

Besides all public pools being shutdown for the year by Tuesday, another true sign that summer is over and autumn is near is the Oktoberfest beer already flowing from the tap on the fourth day of September at Gateway.

As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said “the summer moves by pretty fast. If you don’t stop to soak in the sun at the last minute, you might just miss it.”

Or, something like that.