Happy Friday! Megan here.

Weather check: Ok maybe don't rule out snow just yet 🀞

Happy (almost) new year! I won't be back in your inbox until 2024, but I just want to say once more how grateful I am for your readership. February will mark the three year anniversary for Sioux Falls Simplified, and I've got some fun surprises up my sleeve (including a HUGE giveaway)! So stay tuned!

This weekend, I've got one more piece of reporting on the childcare crisis to help contextualize why this is an issue we'll be seeing lots more conversation about in 2024. But then it's all fun stuff! You'll learn about a new faith group focused on inclusion as well as a massive round-up of holiday and new year events.

And now, news:


Even if Apple Tree stays open, the childcare crisis will remain

Simplified: There's a chance Apple Tree's childcare centers won't need to close after all, according to a report from SiouxFalls.Business. But even if funders are found to save the centers in the short-term, childcare advocates agree more long-term, systemic solutions are needed to address the ongoing crisis in Sioux Falls.

selective focal photo of crayons in yellow box
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • The announcement late last week that Apple Tree was closing all four of its Sioux Falls childcare centers sparked a firestorm of community conversations about how to find spots for the hundreds of kids who were about to be displaced.
  • Within a few days, businessman and former Apple Tree Director Pete Nelson agreed to take on the financial responsibility to keep Apple Tree West open. Current Director Amy Huff said that announcement also meant kids who were at the center's location on Valhalla Boulevard would be able to move over to Apple Tree West – essentially saving two of the four centers.
  • It's good news for dozens, if not hundreds of families. But as the Sioux Falls community continues to grow and the needs of both families and childcare providers grow with it, the city is going to need more sustainable solutions, said Michelle Erpenbach, president of Sioux Falls Thrive.
"There are people out there who are seriously considering whether they should have kids or not now," Erpenbach said.

Tell me more about the crisis and why it's so complicated


How LGBTQ+ folks are finding faith, community in new spaces

Simplified: In recent months, Sioux Falls has seen several new resources for the LGBTQ+ community, including the state's first-ever LGBTQ+ Christian ministry – Shepherd's Table.

Why it matters

  • South Dakota's political and cultural landscape has historically been unfriendly to LGBTQ+ folks, and that can be particularly true in church communities. Shepherd's Table founder Rev. Sawyer Vanden Heuvel said he's seen and experienced it firsthand as a gay man.
  • This month, Vanden Heuvel hosted the first-ever Shepherd's Table event at the Prism Community Center – another new resource and gathering space for LGBTQ+ communities. More than 100 people showed up to sing carols, decorate cookies and find fellowship.
  • The hope moving forward is to create a "dinner church" model, very similar to how early Christians gathered around tables, shared a meal and spread the gospel, Vanden Heuvel said. Jesus broke bread with all sorts of people, he added, and Shepherd's Table intends to do the same.
"Seeing how the gospel has been weaponized against people or to marginalize people – that's not the gospel then," Vanden Heuvel said. "The gospel means good news. And the good news is that Jesus came for all people and to give salvation to all people with no exclusions."

Tell me more about Shepherd's Table

And learn more about the Prism Community Center, too.


Super Simplified Stories

  • Make sure you're recycling right. The City of Sioux Falls has a guide to recycling over the holidays to help you keep what doesn't belong in landfills out of landfills and what doesn't belong in recycling bins out of recycling bins. Find that here.
  • Baby Penguin gets a name. The penguin chick at the Great Plains Zoo officially has a name, as announced Thursday. Sammons Financial bid on the naming rights at the Wings & Waves gala and opted for the name "Sammy." Here's the little babe in action:
  • Ready to run? Registration is now open for the 2024 Sioux Falls Marathon, which will take place on Aug. 25. Details here.
  • More of a yoga person? Don't worry, we don't all have to run marathons. The Sioux Empire TNR Coalition – a group working to end cat overpopulation in the area – is hosting three sessions of "kitten yoga" (yes, it's yoga with kittens) in January. Oh, and yeah, you can adopt the kittens. Get tickets here for the Jan. 4 class and here for the Jan. 10 class.
  • A special graduation ceremony. An Augustana international student from Australia who graduated during the pandemic and wasn't able to walk the commencement stage got a special one-person ceremony on Thursday. Here's Zac Stevenson of the Class of 2020:


Stuff to do: Dec. 22-28

  • Don't be Scrooge, see Scrooge. Catch the Premiere Playhouse's staging of the holiday classic "A Christmas Carol" at the Orpheum Theatre for its final performances this weekend. Tickets here.
  • Take selfies with Santa. The big man is about to get pretty busy, but you can still catch him at The Bridges at 57th Street from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Details here.
  • Take a break from the festivities. Did anyone else do the "Drop Everything And Read" time as kids in school? Well, Full Circle Book Co-op is hosting a "Silent Book Club" that's essentially that. Enjoy a 30-minute social starting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and then sit and read in silence for an hour. More here.
  • Let your pup steal Santa's snacks. Shop Dog Boutique is hosting a holiday event for your furry friends starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Pups will be able to steal Santa's cookies and take photos with the big man in front of a festive background. Details here.
  • Feast on fishes. Harvester Kitchen is hosting a traditional "Feast of the Seven Fishes" dinner over the weekend, with a menu inspired by an Italian-American tradition featuring seven different seafood dishes. See the menu and snag a reservation here.


Stuff to do: NYE edition

  • For those who won't make it to midnight. Young kids? Yeah, me too. Fear not, the Washington Pavilion has you covered with a "Noon Year's Eve" celebration with a countdown and balloon drop at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. Details here.
  • For those who want to party. It's dang-near impossible to find all of the parties out there, but you can for-sure find parties at Shenanigans, Blarney Stone, The Social, Detour Bar, and basically every bar out there.
  • For those who want good music. Check out the 605 Cover Show at Icon on Saturday, Dec. 30, where local bands will be covering some big hits from Green Day to The Pixies to Basement. Details and tickets here.
  • For those who want to party without the booze. South Dakota Urban Indian Health is hosting its second annual Sobriety Wacipi (pow wow) event at the organization's downtown location. More on that here. There's also a Good NAtured New Year's Eve party at Joy Collective Yoga with games, music and a sparkling cider toast at midnight. Details on that one here.
  • For those who want fireworks. Great Shots is hosting a New Year's Eve celebration with packages that include unlimited beer, house wine and NA drinks. Plus, there'll be fireworks starting at 10 p.m. Details on that here.


More Simplified Stories

Sioux Falls has options to solve its childcare crisis. Will the city’s elected leaders help?
Elected officials are divided on how to help – and if the city even has a role to play at all.
What City Council wants state lawmakers to focus on in 2024
Top of the list? The council wants lawmakers to help them keep their options open for the future of a collection of taxidermy animals from the Delbridge Museum.
How to give yourself the gift of balance in the new year
Barre3 Sioux Falls can help you start the year feeling strong, mindful and balanced in body and mind. All you have to do is commit to yourself.


What I'm falling for this weekend:


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