To the many who have driven by the Varsity Pub it's just another bar on Main Street but to the people inside it holds years of stories, laughs, and memories they will cherish for a lifetime.
Not only is The Varsity special to the previous mentioned people but to the community as well. Established in 1920, The Varsity has stood in the same location for 100 years. This is unique for the town of Vermillion, as no other bar can say the same. Built in 1920 by the Michels brothers, Fred and Ernie, the Varsity was a place to stop by and purchase chocolates, fountain drinks, luncheons, and smokes. Doug Dwyer, a former owner knew the founders of the bar, was told the history firsthand as it ran a year as a candy store and then after a year they put the wooden floor in the basement (that's still the original floor down there) and installed the stairway on the side. That's when they first started doing keg parties and hosting bands.
Fraternities and sororities would send freshmen down there to stand in line on Friday and Saturday in that outdoor entryway until the sophomores, junior, and seniors came down and then they'd take the spot in the line to get in. Since the original owners, times have changed and so have the many advertisements in the USD college newspaper displaying the Varsity's charm. An ad from the early 2000s shows The Varsity making a change to be a non-smoking bar before South Dakota made it a law in 2010, a mock political ad in a 1960's Dakota Days blast issue states that next election my choice is The Varsity and it then continues to list all the reasons The Varsity has their vote!
In 1938, a poem was anonymously published with the title a night at The Varsity with the few of the Greeks, the pages of this poem provide hilarious antidotes to what a night at The Varsity in the late 30s was all about. Some ads date back to The Varsity's opening in 1920 and even documents the business splitting in 1935 when one of the brothers decided to open Michel's coffee shop and from then on Michel's Varsity was on its own.
Not only did the ads change over time but the owners did, too. Many customers seem like they have been here since the first day and some have only been here for a short time. BUT no matter the amount of time spent here the impact is all the same. Past students from as long ago as 50 years ago will stop back when in town just to reminisce, they smile as they enter the door like a child when they first visit Disneyland. But they all want to go to the basement and talk about the Greek exchanges held there, or the night they were tapped into Strollers, or the great band playing the night they met their first wife. Some tell the story of being proposed to when they came to hear one of the great rock and roll or easy listening music groups.
The basement has a large stage that has had the privilege of featuring South Dakota/local grown bands and (even some SDRR inductees), bands such as Red Willow, Poker Alice, Zero Ted, Five Line Transport Blues Band graced the stage. Other more national names were Martha and the Vandellas, Hagar Twins from Hee Haw, and Sly Dog which was Billy Ray Cyrus’ Band.
The Varsity basement still hosts many trivia nights for student fund raisers, birthday parties, anniversary parties, grad parties, retirement events, local bands and class reunions. The Varsity has lasted 100 years because of the loyal customers and the family they've become. At the Vars we are so proud of its past but very passionate for its future!
2022Ballrooms/Dance Halls/Night Clubs