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Prehistoric Indian Village's tremendous tour guide

Dennis Scott was recently awarded the Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality and Customer Service Award for his time working as a tour guide at the Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 2
Dennis Scott was one of three tourism industry members who were awarded the new Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality and Customer Service from the South Dakota Department of Tourism. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 2

Nobody knows more about the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village than Dennis Scott.

The Letcher man has been a tour guide for the facility for the past 12 years. And in that time Scott has led thousands of people through the 20 acres of land it sits on.

But it's not the history and numerous facts Scott rattles off that are engraved into visitors' memories. It's Scott.

"He's our most requested guide. The schools request him, and the little kids love him," said Cindy Gregg, director of the Prehistoric Indian Village. "They're a bit afraid of him at first ... but at the end of the day they go up and give him hugs. Then, the thank you letters come in for him. It's really good."

Earlier this month Scott was honored for his decade-long service with the new Ruth Ziolkowski Outstanding Hospitality and Customer Service Award from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

Scott was one of three tourism industry members honored with the award at the Jan. 18 Governor's Conference on Tourism in Pierre. The other winners were Pouran Borchardt, Children's Museum of South Dakota in Brookings and Rita Franz, Black Hills Visitor Information Center in Rapid City.

"These industry members represent the generosity and hospitality that Ruth showed visitors each day," said Gov. Dennis Daugaard in a press release. "I thank them for extending South Dakota Kindness to everyone they meet."

Making the Village a 'good stop' for all visitors

While shocked by the award, Scott said his hospitality and customer service skills are just a "part of the job."

And they're skills a long time in the making. Scott taught English and history for numerous years at Aurora Plains Academy in Plankinton before retiring. Wanting "something else to do" in his spare time, he went job hunting and found the tour guide position at the Prehistoric Indian Village.

Unfamiliar with archeology, Scott spent much time learning about the history of the place. Shortly after starting, the Indian Village added school tours, which are "a lot of fun," according to Scott.

"I try to do my best in explaining what this place is about and why it was a good stop. The goal every time is to have that hospitality and customer service," Scott said, pointing to his new award. " ... Tours are one way in which we are able to provide an experience here in Mitchell for visitors to come."

In his 12 years, Scott cannot count the number of tours or visitors he's spoken with who have walked through the Indian Village doors.

Some days Scott may have one tour, while other days it could be five, he said, and every day is different. Already the Prehistoric Indian Village has a large student group out of Sioux Falls scheduled for a visit when it opens this spring.

Just as he loves student tours, Scott also thoroughly enjoys the visitors who stop by.

"You get people from all over the world: Australia, Russia, China, Canada, all over," he said.

An award-winning year for the Village

The awards don't stop with Scott.

Last Friday, the Prehistoric Indian Village was also awarded the Tourism Excellence Award during the recognition banquet for the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, Mitchell Area Development Corporation and Mitchell Main Street & Beyond.

"It's an embarrassment of riches, I keep saying," Gregg said. "I couldn't be prouder of the staff. Without the staff and the good job they do, we wouldn't get these awards."