How many of ‘The 8s’ do you have? / by Annette Tait

It’s officially tourist season -- time to put on our “ready for company” faces and get ready for visitors!

 The historic Aladdin Tipple, showcased by the geography of the area (see how we worked that in?), is one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

The historic Aladdin Tipple, showcased by the geography of the area (see how we worked that in?), is one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

Every rural community has at least eight things that, with a little bit of creativity, can tempt travelers to stop and spend some time – and some money – in your town. You may not have all eight, but we’re willing to bet you’ve got most of them: art/culture (think annual celebrations and the like), cuisine (we mostly just call it food), geography, architecture, commerce (shopping!), people, customs, and history.

We wish we came up with “The 8s” ourselves, but we have to give credit to the Kansas Sampler Foundation, which says, “Everything fits into one of these categories. Every town has a story to tell about each one.”

Take Aladdin, Wyo. -- one of our favorite towns on the cut-across from Belle Fourche, S.D., to Sundance, Wyo. It’s also a popular stop for travelers on the way to Devils Tower, Wyo., and Sturgis, S.D. This micro-sized community – around 15 residents -- packs a punch with everything from local foods to cowboys and cattle to history and more.

Let’s take a look at Aladdin’s “eight.”

Geography. Nestled into the hills just to the east of the Bear Lodge Mountains, plateaus and oak and pine covered coulees and draws dominate a landscape punctuated with rolling meadows. Bonus -- there are an average of 226 sunny days a year!

Arts/culture. Brand new this year is the inaugural Aladdin Music and Food Festival June 16. If you’re passing through, drop in at the Aladdin Mercantile for local paintings, jewelry, notecards, photography and more. 

 Katy showing off three of “The 8s” in one -- art, history, and commerce – at the Aladdin Mercantile, Aladdin, Wyo.

Katy showing off three of “The 8s” in one -- art, history, and commerce – at the Aladdin Mercantile, Aladdin, Wyo.

Architecture. The Mercantile was built in 1896 and is a prime example of early stores. It’s been in continuous operation for more than 100 years! Just a hop and a skip to the east of town is the Aladdin Tipple, another prime example of early engineering and one of the last existing wooden coal tipples in the west.

Cuisine. Don’t let the petite size of Cindy B’s Café fool you -- portions are generous, the food is tasty, and the prices are great. Or head to the Mercantile for sandwiches, snacks and an assortment of “old-timey” sodas. You can even belly up to the bitty bar tucked into the corner to sample local whiskeys and wine. Can you say “pour me a Chris Ledoux, please?”

Customs. Aladdin is in the heart of cowboy country, where rural values abound. A man’s -- or woman’s -- word is bond and a handshake means something. Men will always treat women like ladies, and friendliness is the order of the day.

 The Aladdin Mercantile is also an example of local architecture -- false fronts were a common practice when it was built in the late 1800s

The Aladdin Mercantile is also an example of local architecture -- false fronts were a common practice when it was built in the late 1800s

History. Founded in the late 1880s on logging and coal production, coal mined in Aladdin was shipped by rail to smelters in Lead and Deadwood, and Colonel Custer stopped by in 1874 during his Black Hills expedition. 

People. Folks in Aladdin are a hearty bunch, deeply committed to the land, their faith, community, and country –- always friendly and ready to help in a pinch. Want to know how the West really was? Ask a local – many are descendants of the original settlers.

Commerce. Just like during the days of the Old West, the Mercantile has just about anything you could want — you name it, you’ll probably find it. Sit a spell on the porch to write out that postcard you bought, then mail it from the little post office tucked inside.

See? If tiny little Aladdin can show off its “eight,” so can your town. Get creative, put on your “company face,” and invite the world in for a visit!