CUSTER | Thousands will hear the sound of more than 1,300 buffalo galloping over hills as the 52nd annual Buffalo Roundup gets underway Friday at Custer State Park.

In conjunction with the event, the park will host its 24th annual Arts Festival Thursday through Saturday.

The Buffalo Roundup begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 29.

“Each year, the Buffalo Roundup brings up to 20,000 spectators from around the world to Custer State Park to view the park’s 1,300 buffalo and watch the Old West come alive,” said Katie Ceroll, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. "To have an arts festival with more than 125 arts and craft exhibitors means that there will be no shortage of entertainment this year for the entire family.”

The parking areas for the roundup, located near the corrals along the Wildlife Loop Road, open at 6:15 a.m. and close at 9 a.m. on Friday. For safety reasons, spectators need to remain in the viewing areas until all the buffalo are corralled which typically occurs around noon.

The annual Arts Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Arts Festival takes place near the State Game Lodge.

Custer State Park will host the grand re-opening of the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center on Thursday. This historic building previously housed the Custer State Park Visitor Center; it has been renovated to become the new Outdoor Education Center.

“The goal of this building is to inspire more visitors, especially younger visitors, to feel comfortable exploring nature,” said Custer State Park superintendent Matt Snyder.

The new exhibits include outdoor classrooms with building, art and digging areas, as well as a mine. The new indoor exhibits include a life-size oak tree, a prairie dog town with its own burrow to crawl through and a cave to explore.

Although herd management is the primary purpose of the Buffalo roundup, it also provides visitors an experience that is unique in the entire world, said Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism.

“We hear from visitors around the globe about how incredible it is to watch the bison thunder over the rolling prairie. It’s something they never forget and provides great storytelling and organic word-of-mouth marketing about our state,” Hagen said.

The buffalo are placed in corrals where they are sorted, branded, and tested. Certain animals will be selected for the fall auction.

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The roundup and auction are conducted to keep the bison and the park’s grasslands healthy. The park’s grassland only are able to support about 1,000 buffalo through the winter, which means about 300 surplus buffalo are usually sold at the annual auction.

The auction typically attracts buyers from all over the United States and Canada.

Once on the verge of extinction, today there are about 500,000 bison across North America.

A state park entrance license is required on Thursday and Saturday, but there is no cost to attend the Buffalo Roundup or Arts Festival on Friday.

For more information go to custerstatepark.com or call 605-255-4515.

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