Destination: Pipestone

Civil War Days and Pipestone National Monument make Pipestone a rich historical destination
People firing a cannon at Pipestone Civil War Days.
Pipestone Civil War Days. Photo courtesy Kate Heller.

Located in the very southwest corner of Minnesota, Pipestone is just 47 miles northeast of Sioux Falls and 197 miles (3 hours and 30 minutes) from Minneapolis. This weekend, take a trip down to Pipestone and celebrate Civil War Days, explore Pipestone National Monument, and, for a weekend trip, try camping at Split Rock Creek State Park, just seven miles south of Pipestone.

Every town has its celebration, and for Pipestone it’s Pipestone Civil War Days, which is taking place this weekend, Aug. 11–12, at Hiawatha Pageant Park. The two-day event is considered a tribute to the town’s past, and reenactors and performers work to transport visitors back to the 1860s with daily battle reenactments, cannon demonstrations, and vintage baseball games along with a Civil War Tea and Civil War Ball, among other activities. Attendees can snap a selfie with a statue of Abe Lincoln, grab food from one of the many vendors, and see collections of over 200-plus Civil War guns on display.

Individual, weekend, and family tickets and passes are available for purchase at the front gate, which opens at 8 a.m. both days.

For more history, make sure to stop by Pipestone National Monument, and learn more about Native American culture; the red pipestone which is quarried for prayer ceremonies by the Plains tribe; and the natural, untouched prairie. A visitors center contains educational displays, and the Circle and Quarry Trails allow for visitors to explore the grounds—the Circle Trail will lead you to the Winnewissa Falls.

If you’re hoping to make a weekend out of it, book a campsite at Split Rock Creek State Park, which has hiking trails and a swimming beach, or if you’re hoping to stay in Pipestone, check out the Historic Calumet Inn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and complete with a coffee shop called Cal’s Coffee House.

If Pipestone is too far a trek, check out two more festivals this weekend that also shine the light on some culture and history:

Irish Fair (Aug. 10-12)

Although there aren’t as many historic reenactors, the live entertainment, food, dance, and talks will make you feel like you’ve gotten a healthy glimpse into the Emerald Isle at the largest free Irish fair in the country. Check out all that’s happening here.

Legends and Logging Days (Aug. 9-12)

On closer inspection, Park Rapids’ Legends and Logging Days doesn’t really dive into the culture of lumberjacks, but hey, their Jack and Jill lumberjack competitions are pretty fun to watch as people go head to head on challenges like stacking log cookies, bow saw speed, and hammerschlagen. Plus, there is some history with its family-friendly programming.

Between events, watch master chainsaw artists demonstrate their art form and take a look back in time with Civil War canon exhibits, black powder demonstrations, Dutch oven cooking samples, and more. Schedule in some downtime at the Sip and Paint with Nate on Friday, the beer garden Friday and Saturday, or the free beach concert on Sunday (donations go toward the Kinship of the Park Rapids Area). If the lumberjack games have your own competitive juices flowing, sign up for the bean bag toss tournament on Saturday.

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