Hoven’s Christmas on the Prairie

Posted on January 3, 2019

Paula Jensen
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It’s a chilly day in December and cars and buses are lining the streets of Hoven, population 400. From a distance you can see the majestic church spires piercing the pale blue sky, a beacon to people traveling here from near and far. Affectionately known as the “Cathedral on the Prairie,” St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Hoven attracts many visitors throughout the year—but today over one thousand people will flock here to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season with “Christmas on the Prairie,” featuring glorious music from a variety of highly regarded choirs and the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra.

“A former priest, Father Lance Oser, started this tradition in 2003 when he reached out to the South Dakota Symphony and they agreed to come,” explains Mary Keller, lifelong Hoven resident and the event’s Choral Coordinator. “It is a work of love for everyone involved. I am always amazed at the distances some of these musicians travel, and the pride they take in this event. And as far as local volunteers, we get people of all ages involved.”

Christmas on the Prairie takes place the first or second Sunday in December and always sells out, thanks to an amazing line-up of performers, a full meal reception and, of course, the splendor of the church.

While there are many noteworthy churches in rural communities across South Dakota, few rival the beauty of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Hoven. This church was the inspiration of  Monsignor Anthony Helmbrecht, who presided over the Catholic parish for half a century. He hoped one day Hoven might be a bishop’s home. While no bishop has ever resided in Hoven, the church has become a unique landmark for the rural community–one of extraordinary beauty and grandeur.

Most of the proceeds from the concert are used for the ongoing preservation of the church, which requires constant upkeep and maintenance. It is listed on the National Historic Registry and is lovingly cared for by the residents of Hoven, with the St. Anthony’s Altar Society cleaning it monthly.

This past December, Christmas on the Prairie featured the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, NSU Chamber Singers, All-Faith Festival Choir, soloists John Moore and Michelle Monroe and narrator John Roberts as part of the holiday celebration.

“Our musicians are so dedicated. We start practicing in October, and some of  them travel from as far away as Iowa, North Dakota and Colorado to perform here,” says Mary. “This is a very special place, and it just comes alive with the music.”

Mary gives credit to the good Lord for helping make the annual event such a success.

“In all the years we’ve been doing this, we have always had excellent weather the day of the event,” she says. “We might have a storm the day before or the day after, but the actual day has been wonderful every single year.”

Learn more about the community of Hoven at www.hovensd.com

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