The Berger family got a full-on introduction to what a South Dakota winter can be like – and raves about their recent move anyway.
It all started when Travis Berger moved from Texas to Sioux Falls in February. He works in private equity and is a food scientist and chef doing product development for a local company.
While traveling here leading up to the move, “he was stuck in his hotel and got snowed in, and everything shut down,” his wife, Paige, said. “So there are people stuck in the hotel, and he literally hopped in the kitchen and helped feed everyone.”
Neither of them knew anything about South Dakota, and after several moves, they weren’t inclined to leave central Texas.
But after Travis came to Sioux Falls to interview late last year, “he kept saying, ‘Paige, the people are so nice.’ And I’m like, you know what, let’s do it,” she said. “And it’s true. What sold us are the people. Texas prides itself on Southern hospitality, nice people, manners, all that jazz. But South Dakota people kick Southern hospitality’s butt.”
The whole family of five – including 1-month Willa at the time – moved March 1. After buying their house through a virtual call, they’ve now moved in and are getting to know their neighborhood.
“We had just seen the house through pictures, and I am obsessed. I love it,” Paige said. “We lived in a nice neighborhood in Texas too, but here there are kids everywhere running around. It’s so safe. When we pulled up, kids were in everyone’s backyards and sledding. It was crazy. The neighbors were so nice immediately.”
Not only is their neighborhood like that, “the entire town is,” she continued. “I go grocery shopping, and it’s funny because when we lived in Oregon, for instance, people wouldn’t talk to each other. Here, at the grocery store even though I know no one, I might be there talking to strangers for 20 minutes. It’s welcoming. It’s warm despite the cold weather, and it’s a really, really nice culture.”
And speaking of the weather, they’ve embraced that too. Their home is minutes from Great Bear Ski Valley, so the kids already have been tubing.
Her oldest, 5-year-old Milam, starts soccer soon and then baseball, while 2-year-old Nila is registered for gymnastics.
“Our family is big in sports, so we caught the end of winter, which was really fun, and my husband and I are really looking forward to hunting season,” Paige said. “We don’t have any pheasants at all in Texas, and we can’t wait.”
While being mom to three young kids — and a new puppy, appropriately named Dakota — is her full-time job for now, she said she’s excited to connect in the Brandon Valley School District and become involved.
“Before in Texas, I worked with the school a bunch and coached and substitute taught, and I thought about running for school board, so I intend on being involved in the schools here as well as the churches,” she said.
The Berger family’s early experience is a great indicator of what awaits in Sioux Falls, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
“So often, we see families choose to relocate for one spouse’s job, and the other spouse quickly discovers what a fantastic move it is for them too,” she said.
“Whether Paige chooses to work or volunteer or become civically involved, she’s going to find that same welcoming attitude she’s already experienced. And along the way, the whole family is going to see how family-friendly this community is, from our safe neighborhoods to our terrific schools to the attractions and amenities that add to the quality of life here.”
And in maybe the most promising sign so far: When Paige asked her son if he would miss the snow when it melted, “he was actually sad,” she said. “Because he thought it would be here 24/7.”