Chinook Days: How winds blew in the next best Winter Festival

by Kyler Flock | January 20, 2021
Outdoor Adventure Nature & Recreation Entertainment

It’s no secret that the weather in Spearfish is unpredictable and might require a few outfit changes during the day but, on January 22, 1943 the temperature here quite literally set a record. 

On the third week of January 1943, Spearfish was experiencing temperatures of -4 degrees Fahrenheit and then around 7:30 a.m. Chinook winds blew into Spearfish causing the temperature to rise to 45 degrees in just two minutes. It didn’t stop there – the winds continued to climb and by 9 a.m. it had reached 54 degrees in the town of Spearfish. 

The Chinook winds began to settle down a few hours later and it soon turned frigid once again. It took only 27 minutes for the already unheard-of temperature of 58 degrees to scale all the way back down to –4 degrees. This shift happened to suddenly and quickly that many locals can remember windows cracking and breaking from the erratic shifts.  

But what exactly does this mean for the community of Spearfish nearly 80 years later? 

 Spearfish is now the record holder for the fastest temperature change thanks to the Chinook winds Frankly, we think that deserves a little celebration. 

Ironically, Chinook, the term used to describe the warm Rocky Mountain wind gusts that create the wild weather, is also a type of beer hop. Anyone who knows the community of Spearfish knows this place loves its craft beer.  

With unique weather and beer sharing the same name in ‘Chinook’, this is where the idea was created to celebrate this historical event with all of the things locally loved in Spearfish. Outdoor sports, craft beer, music, and the arts all coming together for a week-long list of excitement all meant to highlight our home. 

This communal event quite literally takes a village to run. Many wonderful non-profits, clubs, and organizations gathered together in 2020 to bring this idea to life. Thanks to groups like Spread the Tunes, Grooming Alliance of Spearfish, BH Nordic, the Matthews Opera House, Killian's Food and Drink, Dykstra Pottery, and Visit Spearfish, this event could not happen. At the “Chinook Days” core, that is what this event is really all about, community collaboration. Nearly every dollar made at Chinook Days goes right back into these wonderful organizations. 

Spearfish locals and visitors alike can expect to see this week-long celebration always occur around the actual date of the storm, January 22. Each year the key events will always occur on or around this special date. 

Typically, on the Friday leading up to the bonfire, Main Street can be seen filled from corner to corner with wonderful snow mounds that have been sculpted to perfection. Usually wrapping up the busy week of fun, is the beer fest and bonfire which allows for all of the local breweries in the Black Hills to show off their latest Chinook hopped beer. And usually, that beer fest is capped off with the bonfire that has traditionally been the grand finale to the entire week.  

Nearly 80 years have passed since the day the weather broke windows, yet the Chinook spirit is as strong as the winds were back in 1943. Although this date will always be remembered for the storm, it has now become a week locals can look forward to celebrating for hopefully many years to come. 

 Happy Chinook Days! 

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