Nora, S.D. (KTIV) - Sitting on the side of a South Dakota highway is a step back in time. Countless Christmas memories fill the Nora Store in Nora South Dakota.
Every December it comes alive as hundreds of people pack in to sing the sounds of Christmas. But, that was before 2020. Before the pandemic changed the way we gather together.
Welcome to Nora, South Dakota…population five.
"It's down to two," said Mike Pedersen, Nora Store Owner. "Me and my next door neighbor, but when his kids are all home it jumps up to five or six."
In Nora, you can meet Mike Pedersen. A man full of character with a love for people and Christmas. He runs the Nora Store, a hidden gem of South Dakota. Back in the fall of 1989, Mike was given a pipe organ, and a simple idea popped into his head.
"I said we should hurry up and get this thing put together and they said what's the hurry?" said Pedersen. "We have all winter and I said no we don't. I want to share the blessing. I want to put an ad in the paper and see if anybody would come and sing Christmas carols for me and they go 'yeah right.'"
But, near and far, people have flocked to the Nora Store to do just that. Thirty-one years later, Pedersen said the Christmas celebrations have grown beyond anything he could imagine.
"You can't describe in words, this thing completely wall to wall with people and to hear the singing and to feel the joy, it's pretty neat," said Pedersen.
The Christmas lights and decorations still fill the Nora Store. But, the people packed shoulder to shoulder won't be as common this year. You can add the Nora Store to the things the COVID-19 pandemic has changed. But, even with that change, the Christmas music still goes on.
"I thought well maybe I should just skip it," said Pedersen. "After 30 years it's been a good run and give it up, but the Lord lay on my heart and said no Michael. I would not feel right if I was sitting up there with nobody here and this opportunity."
So like many other things this year, Mike adapted. Long gone are the packed open houses. Now smaller crowds fill this room. But, the Christmas music hasn't stopped. And 31 years later, Mike said the experience is just as beautiful as the first time.
"I have failed to appreciate just how much it has meant to people," said Pedersen. "Pretty humbling for this old man that people will come out in the middle of nowhere and share a little Christmas with him."
A little bit of Christmas that Mike said he's seen passed down throughout the generations.
"I started 30 years ago so they were little kids then, and now they have families and they're bringing their children," said Pedersen.
So why does he do it year after year? His answer is simple.
"To feel the love," said Pedersen. "That's the bottom line. I don't know anyone who has walked through those doors who hasn't gone away blessed and refreshed."
But, it's Mike who said he's the one that's blessed to be able to share the Christmas love every year.
Pedersen doesn't charge anything to come out and sing. But, there is a free-will donation that helps to keep the building running. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.
Those donations will go to help fix things up like the foundation, siding, and getting the beam fixed.
If you'd like to make a reservation to come out and carol, you can give him a call at 605-659-1071 or check out his Facebook page.