Sioux Falls satisfies its thirst for relevance in Tom Hanks tweet

The locals in Sioux Falls, S.D., lost their collective minds this week, thanks to a fairly nondescript tweet that Tom Hanks made early on Tuesday in support of James and Deborah Fallows’ book, which documents how America’s small towns are reinventing themselves.

Hanks isn’t going to move to Sioux Falls. Hanks doesn’t even want to move to Sioux Falls.

But just mentioning the city was enough to get the Sioux Falls Argus Leader to headline, “Tom Hanks ‘may move to Sioux Falls’.”

Erie, Penn. — the last chapter in the Fallows’ book is about Erie — also invited Hanks to move there, prompting a tweet from another media organization that suggested the Pennsylvania city back off because, “he’s ours.”

No, he’s not, Sioux Falls.

By Thursday, Argus Leader columnist Stuart Whitney had had enough.

“What is wrong with us?” Whitney asked.

Is our feeling of self-worth so low that the slightest brush with fame sends us into teen-like hysterics, like those screaming girls in Beatles concert newsreels who collapse when Paul McCartney glances in their direction?

Sioux Falls is a city of nearly 200,000 people that has emerged as a national force in hospital expansion and financial services, with a beautiful parks system and enlivened downtown.

Yet we’re still shackled by feelings of inferiority that plague the state as a whole – self-fulfilling limitations that delayed South Dakota’s launch into Division I athletics and made us squeamish about Denny Sanford’s face-forward philanthropy.

Whitney says the reaction to Hanks’ tweet is understandable given that the biggest celebraties from Sioux Falls for years were “Mary Hart, Pat O’Brien and the blond guy from ‘Starsky & Hutch.’”

David Soul, for the record. How soon they forget.

It’s been five years since the Fallowses actually visited Sioux Falls for their book and Whitney says the couple overstated the significance of a few things that are now outdated in their review of the city.

But Fallows’ mention of Sioux Falls’ “unrelenting modesty of mindset” struck a chord.

The reaction to the reaction of Hanks’ tweet was either charming or sophomoric, he says.

“Underneath it all was a basic and unspoken desire to be regarded as relevant, if only for a little while,” he said.

Get yourself a raccoon for that sort of thing, Sioux Falls.

  • 212944

    Amateurs.

    They would barely hold their own in the “feelings of inferiority” dance-off.

  • MikeB

    Whitney starting the Indignant SD twitter account in 3,2,1….

  • Gary F

    George McGovern was from Sioux Falls.

    • Rob

      He was from SD, but not Sioux Falls. He was also a helluva WWII bomber pilot. I still wonder how he would have fared in his presidential run if he’d claimed his war experience more forcefully.

      • The US was still in the midst of the Vietnam War. I’m pretty sure citing “warrior” credentials during that campaign would not have been a wise move.

        • Rob

          His position as a war opponent might have been more digestible for middle America if he had also reminded folks that he came to that position as a distinguished war veteran. Running from his service instead of embracing it was, IMHO, a huge mistake.

    • George McGovern was from Avon, grew up in Mitchell, and died at a hospice in Sioux Falls.

  • FWIW: Rapid City is a great, centrally located place to stay when visiting the Badlands…

    • RBHolb

      One of my favorite parts of the movie North by Northwest is hearing Cary Grant say “Rapid City South Dakota!”

      • Rob

        Also immortalized in song by Kinky Friedman.

    • Rob

      The Black Hills is also an outstanding area for motorcycling. Pro tip: ride there in early September. The weather tends to be fine, and the roads are virtually empty, as the tourists are gone. Plus, there’s no trace of the hundreds of thousands of bikers and onlookers who come for the surrealness of The Sturgis Bike Rally each August.

      • The first time I went out there was only a couple years ago and we went the weekend before everything was really “open” (pre-tourist time).

        We had the exact experience that you described, empty roads and parks, and I happened to be driving my non-stock Audi TT.

        I think i only saw maybe 2 other vehicles in Custer State Park and I was able to drive as slow or as fast as I wanted to.

        My wife said that I had the biggest grin on my face ripping through almost deserted roads…

    • Jack

      Gotta see the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Took me years CJ, but I made it.

      • Stopped at the info booth right outside the palace so we saw the outside. That was enough for me.

        😀

  • Rob

    Sioux Falls does have a nice parks system and lots of paved walking/biking trails. And the downtown area, which was moribund for decades, has come back to life most impressively.

    Some wags refer to the town as Sandford Falls, given that Denny Sandford’s name is on so many institutions and structures. It makes some folks queasy, given that Sandford made his gazillions in the usurious end of the credit card biz; South Dakota has no caps on what credit card operations housed there can charge.

    It also bears reminding that though Sioux Falls overall has a fairly progressive vibe, it’s stuck in a very red state; the legislature has been overwhelmingly red almost since statehood.

    FWIW, Tom, if you do decide to move to SoDak, I’d recommend the Rapid City area. Much more retrograde politically than Sioux Falls, but the Black Hills are stunning.

    • X.A. Smith

      I agree about Rapid City. The cultural difference between Sioux Falls and Rapid City (East River/West River) is significant. Rapid City, owing certainly to it’s tourism focus, is much more laid back and visitor-friendly than Sioux Falls, which is historically based on banking, health care and agriculture industry. Sioux Falls has come a long way in the last 20 years, though.

  • Guest

    I like towns where the church steeple is the tallest thing.

  • But how does Tom Hanks feel about Wall Drug?