Get ready for the rumble.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks' annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival is this week in Custer State Park.

The 54th annual Buffalo Roundup is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Every year, the roundup draws thousands of spectators (more than 21,000 in 2017) to see the park's herd of 1,300 bison being rounded up and herded into corrals by cowboys and cowgirls on horseback and in pickups.

Scott Simpson, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation, said in the news release the event allows visitors to "watch the Old West come alive." 

It's not just for show, however. Once rounded up, the bison are sorted and checked. Cows are pregnancy tested, and calves are vaccinated and branded. The testing, branding and sorting start at 1 p.m. and last until about 3 p.m. 

“While the Buffalo Roundup’s primary purpose is herd management, it also provides our visitors a unique experience,” Jim Hagen, secretary of the Department of Tourism, said in the release. “This event sets South Dakota apart from other states. We hear from visitors around the world about how incredible it is to watch the bison thunder over the rolling prairie. It’s something they never forget.”

Held in conjunction with the roundup, the 26th annual Arts Festival is Sept. 26-28, near the State Game Lodge. State officials say it hosts more than 125 arts and craft exhibitors, featuring clothes, paintings, ornaments, home decor and other hand-crafted items. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. 

"There will be no shortage of entertainment for the entire family," Simpson said.

The parking areas for the roundup, which are located near the corrals along the Wildlife Loop Road, open at 6:15 a.m. and close at 9 a.m. Friday. There are two viewing areas: North and South. For the North Parking and Viewing area, go south from the Game Lodge on Wildlife Loop Road. For the South Parking and Viewing area, go east on Wildlife Loop Road near Blue Bell Campground. Visit gfp.sd.gov/buffalo-roundup or call 225-4515 for more information.

For safety, spectators must stay in the viewing areas until all the buffalo are corralled, which is usually around noon.

A breakfast is available for a fee at 6:15 a.m. in both viewing areas. Lunch is served (also for a fee) by the corrals after the buffalo are rounded up.

Spectators should take folding chairs, cameras, binoculars, layered clothing, rain gear and sun screen. 

It's free to attend the roundup and arts festival on Friday, but all vehicles need a state park entrance license on Thursday and Saturday.

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Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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