Sister Cities: Summit, New Jersey Meet Summit, South Dakota

All photos: credit Dawn Wright


By Steve Sears

Summit Lake

If you visit Summit, South Dakota, there is a good chance you are going to run into Dawn Wright, whose official title is Community Coordinator. 

“I married into the community,” Wright says, who has lived in the town for 28 years. “I wasn’t born here; I wasn’t raised here. I fell in love here and my husband dragged me kicking and screaming up the hill,” she says with a laugh. “We have one church, we have one school, and we’re proud to say we still have our school (Summit School), and the enrollment has actually been going up because we have an open enrollment.” Wright works as the school librarian, works in special care education, twice a week helps with the after-school programs, and is secretary of the local Hope Lutheran Church. “That’s another thing with small towns – where you work you usually wear multiple hats.”

The Roberts County Summit, South Dakota, which is about 30 miles away from any large city or town, is less than one square mile in size, and is home to less than 300 people. Its Sister City, Morris County’s Summit, New Jersey has about 22,000 residents and is about six square miles. Route 27 bisects the western Summit north to south. Established in 1892, it is located in the northeastern part of South Dakota. “We’re right by the railroad track, so that was the main reason that the town was founded,” Wrights says of Summit, which is also at the tail end of the Lake

Summit School

Traverse Indian Reservation. 

Wright adds, “Around here, if you mention ‘Summit,’ most people say, ‘Oh, that’s the place that has bad weather.’

And that’s mainly because of our location, which is why we’re called ‘Summit.’ We’re one of the highest points anywhere.” Because of that, Summit, South Dakota has its own weather pattern. As you climb the hill to Summit, the snow character changes until it reaches its peak in Summit, where blizzards often abound. “We also used to have what we would call our ‘Fog Fest’, ceremony. That’s another thing that we’re really known for, our fog. There’s fog, and then there’s Summit fog. It’s a whole other level. I live a block from our church, and there’s been days when the fog was so bad that I could hardly even see the church.”

Summit, South Dakota is sometimes referred to as a “bedroom community.” Those who enjoy the small-town type living will reside here, and then commute outside of the community and at a distance for work. Also, Summit is a haven for retirees. Wright says, “One couple who lives a block and a half away came from Minneapolis. They no longer wanted the craziness of the city, and came to our nice, quiet community. They chose us. People move here for different reasons.”

Summit, South Dakota nature

Whether you choose to live in Summit or just stop for a short period, you can take a leisurely drive around and visit the 174-acre Summit Lake, and if staying in the community, you’ll be looking at booking space at County Line Campground on Maple Street. If not a camper, you’ll find other accommodations 15 miles or so away from the town in other locations. As for dining, Summit, South Dakota is a meat and potatoes town (“It’s cattle country around here,” Wright says), and you’ll find that at the aptly named (and capitalized for good reason) FOGGY’S Bar & Grill on Sherman Avenue. The new TA Express Travel Center on nearby Route 12 offers a Pizza Hut Express and a Subway, but for a true sit-down meal, FOGGY’S is it, with bar food like hamburgers, French fries, chicken sandwiches, and the very popular chili cheese hot dog. At the before-mentioned TA Express Travel Center, in addition to whatever eats you may find, there is also a Caribou Coffee and Cinnabon, and you can take your java and snack to the adjacent Coffee Cup Bark Park, where your four-legged family members can rest as well.

“It’s such a simple community,” Wright says. “We’re not fancy by any means, it’s just very simple living. I know my neighbors, and we’ve known each other for years. We’re kind of like a big family. I’ve been at the school long enough that I’ve started to teach some of my student’s kids. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I absolutely love it here.”

For more information about Summit, South Dakota, visit


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