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South Dakota Country Music Hall of Fame comes to Lennox; Tribute to Jon Richter to be held March 8

The building located at 122 S. Main Street, Lennox clearly has been transformed. This historic building on the corner of Second and Main has been many things — a grocery store, an antique store, and most recently, a cabinet shop — but today it houses history and music.

Once inside the building, the main feature is the new stage. The venue’s stage features a sealed hardwood top, signed by the musicians who have played there, and framed rustic pine timbers border its edge like a fence line. Wagon wheels and twine adorn the corners and mics, but it’s the drums and speakers that really tell the story of what goes on here in the South Dakota Country Music Opry House and Museum.

The rest of the large room is a work in a progress, says Wini Iverson, Board Chair on the SD Country Music Hall of Fame. She points out the posters, the tributes to musicians and past Hall of Fame inductees, the lighted wagon wheels, the used tables and chairs she “got a bargain on” and the water stains on the walls.

“Our next project is roof repair,” Iverson says.

Even with the daunting amount of work ahead, Iverson speaks passionately about the SD Country Music Hall of Fame that has just recently set up shop here in Lennox. This non-profit organization began as a brainstorm in 2003 from Kenny and Jeanette Powell and Barb Alley to honor Kenny’s uncle, Curt Powell, who was an accomplished musician. Curt passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.

It started out as a musician’s jam session in 2003 and became an actual awards program in 2004. The event is now held annually, with some proceeds being donated to promote music in elementary school programs through raffles and donations.

In 2009, Iverson took over the Chair duties, submitted the paperwork to register the organization, set up the trademark, and began promoting the organization statewide.

Today, the Country Music Hall of Fame’s biggest event is still the annual awards ceremony that is held in conjunction with the State Fair. “The 2015 inductees will be announced at our grand opening here in Lennox on April 12,” Iverson said. “The awards will be given on Sept. 6 at the State Fair.”

The mission of the SD Country Music Hall of Fame is to honor South Dakota musicians, performers, and music entertainers for their contributions and promotion of country music in the state of South Dakota.

Iverson said she has always wanted a permanent home and museum for the Hall of Fame. She said, “I wanted a home close enough to Sioux Falls so that people could drive from all directions, and keep it in a country setting. We looked at a bunch of buildings all over. So when this opened up, I came and looked at it and thought, ‘It will work!’”

She and other volunteers have spent countless hours shaping the space to meet their needs. After the roof repair, another project is an upstairs bathroom, as well as more work in the basement. Iverson said they would welcome more volunteers to help.

Other board members who volunteer for the SD Country Music Hall of Fame are Sara Sandwick of Sioux Falls, Dorothy Miles of Harrisburg, and Iverson said her “right-hand man” is Marge Gorrell of Lennox.

Iverson said that she herself works full time at Citibank, but doesn’t let that get in the way of her passion for Country music. She said, “I want the SD Country Music Hall of Fame to be known around the whole state!”

The organization bought their building in Lennox in April 2014 but just recently held their first event on Jan. 25, 2015. Now, Iverson said, they are ready to get more events on the calendar and hope to see locals stop in and see what they have to offer. She pointed out some of the merchandise available for sale, such as T-shirts and guitar picks.

Upcoming events include a tribute to Jon Richter on March 8. Iverson said he was well-known among local musicians and they would like to honor his love of country music. She said the event will feature the house band, Break Even. Doors will open at noon with music to begin at 2 p.m. Iverson said although she hadn’t had the pleasure to meet Jon personally, he had been scheduled to sing at an event on Feb. 22.

Richter died Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 as a result of injuries sustained from a violent attack at his work place in Lennox. Richter was a talented singer and musician and played with area bands at local events.

There will be several activities to honor Richter, a light lunch will be available. If anyone would like to donate items or cash, please contact Wini Iverson at 605-310-2441. Proceeds will be used to purchase music supplies to be donated to the Lennox elementary school program in memory of Richter.

Iverson said, “Let’s rally the town and show our support for Jon and the things Jon loved the most — music and kids.”

All ages and fellow musicians welcome.

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