3 People You Should Know Part 2

3 People You Should Know Part 2

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Brookings beams with pride for not only the amenities we have, but also the people which make them great. This series “Three People You Should Know,” is to promote the great employees throughout the hospitality industry in Brookings.

Meet Mari Von Fischer, Membership Coordinator at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota. Mari has been a smiling face behind the front desk for almost seven years. This Vermillion, SD native never thought she would be serving the Brookings’ area and in turn find such a friendly community.

Mari has fostered a community of her own with the relationships she has made. Her favorite part of the job is getting to connect with the children first and make them feel welcome. She gets to see children at their most compassionate and caring, one night during a special event, a child was so worried that Mari wouldn’t have time to eat supper. The little boy insisted the family bring part of their supper in a microwavable dish. It brought tears to her eyes and is still one of her best memories. Moments like these and the coworkers around her inspire Mari to dream and inspire play into every visitor.

She takes pride in getting to be kind and welcoming to every guest that comes to play at the Children’s Museum, she said “People will return someplace because of how they were treated, it makes the world of a difference.” Her favorite part is getting to see the excitement in the kid’s eyes when they walk into the museum.

Mari wants readers to know that the Children’s Museum at its heart is a place for all to play. Families with a financial barrier can take part in an Access Program that offers reduced price admission and memberships. The museum also offers special sensory-friendly events for anyone with disabilities and can offer adaptive equipment to any guest coming to visit.

Meet Kirsten Gjesdal, interim executive director for Downtown Brookings and owner of The Carrot Seed Kitchen Co. Kirsten graduated in 2012 from South Dakota State University (SDSU) and has been a mover and shaker in Brookings ever since.

The big city opportunities and small-town feel captured her heart. She loves people in Brookings are forward-thinking and understand a vibrant community does not just happen on its own. Kirsten sees the potential of our Downtown district and knows the people, stories, and spaces are what make this community unique and vibrant.

She works to make Brookings a community which gives visitor’s a sense of “that feeling,” the vibe you can’t quite put your finger on. The sense of connection, belonging, authenticity which just calls you back for more. Kirsten said, “I feel like that’s the core of my job- connecting all these little pieces and programs that make Downtown a hot spot for visitors who want to see the place that’s the most authentically Brookings.”

Where others may write off rural places as boring or not worth visiting, Kirsten hopes to be a little piece in changing that perception. She wants people to see that rural can be really cool and how our small-town hospitality helps all visitors and community members alike feel welcomed and valued.

One tip she would like to share, “Despite what many people believe, adequate parking is available in Downtown Brookings. There are 284 free off-street parking spots within one block of Main Ave, in addition to all the free on-street parking. Don’t let a short walk keep you from experiencing our neighborhood. The 3-minute walk from a parking lot to a shop or restaurant┬áis a chance to see something new and get the full experience of our Downtown community.”

Meet Matt Rustman, Taproom Operations Manager at Wooden Legs Brewing Company (WLBC). After graduating from Illinois State University, his professional career took him all across the Midwest. Since 2020, he has been able to explore his own creativity and ideas at Wooden Legs.

Matt describes Brookings as a community with an exciting atmosphere, “There is always something going on whether that is a sporting event at the university or events going on downtown.” He loves Brookings because this city has everything you need while maintaining a small-town state of mind.

Wooden Legs is more than just craft beer, due to the work Matt puts in to create a good experience for every visitor. The staff takes pride in being very knowledgeable about what they offer which in turn helps them serve every customer which walks through their door. The experience of Wooden Legs includes a large library of board games, fun weekly events like Tuesday Trivia & Wall Street Wednesday, monthly comedy shows, a great food menu, and of course wonderful craft beer. His success directly correlates to the way Wooden Legs creates a memorable experience for every visitor, he said “Building trust and rapport with the customers and knowing they are going to come back to WLBC or tell their friends about the experience they had is extremely gratifying.”

Matt and his team, collaborate with great local businesses and organizations throughout the year to give back to the community. Their biggest philanthropic event is “Fancakes” which they host the morning of every home SDSU Football game. Wooden Legs makes Blueberry and Apple (blue and yellow) pancakes which are free to the public, but attendees are welcome to make a free will donation. All of the proceeds collected are donated to the partner organization of the day. Last year, this event raised $3,000 for local non-profits to help them continue their work.

The Brewery has many great hidden gems to discover, Matt recommends getting a beer flight the next time you visit. A beer flight is four different 5oz. pours you select from their list of 21 taps. “Feel free to take a risk and order a style you have never had before, who knows you may just find your new favorite beer.”

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