Watertown, SD (KSFY) The Watertown Regional Airport reached a major milestone Sunday afternoon.
The airport welcomed its 10,000th passenger of the year, earning the airport a one million dollar federal grant.
“This is our community’s accomplishment, they really rallied around the idea, just hearing we had the chance to make this milestone,” Watertown Mayor Sarah Caron said.
Over the past few months, the entire Watertown community has come together to help the airport reach that 10,000 milestone.
“When we first got wind a couple months ago that we weren't going to exceed the 10,000 number by a lot we started brainstorming some ideas and thought we really should promote this just to ensure we meet that level,” City council member Don Roby said.
“We had until the 31st of December to get 10,000 boardings so it was cutting it very close,” Mayor Caron said.
But with two weeks still left of holiday travel, the airport celebrated the 10,000th passenger with free plane tickets.
Watertown native Christine Stone and her fiancé Tyler Wellnitz were the lucky ticket winners.
After moving to Colorado two years ago, the couple became frequent travelers at the Watertown Airport.
“It’s awesome,” Stone said. “It’s super convenient to have an airline fly right into my home town rather than drive two hours and inconvenience anyone.”
Now the couple has a big reason to come home to Watertown more often.
“She’s my mom’s first grandbaby,” Wellnitz said.
Stone says they will use the tickets to give the grandmas another chance to spend time with their new grandchild. Both grandmas were at the airport and were perhaps the most excited about this big milestone.
“It’s a proud moment for Watertown, it’s a proud moment for everyone,” Roby said. “Everyone in this community got involved in this, through the promotions, through telling their neighbor, through actively getting on the plane.”
“I just want to thank everyone that bought a ticket and helped push us over the edge, it was really a community effort,” Mayor Caron said. “We haven't had 10,000 boardings for decades so this is a big deal for us.”
That community effort will pay off in a big way. The Watertown Regional Airport plans to use the one million dollar federal grant to improve the parking lot and runways at the airport.