Custer, SD It's a five year tradition in the small town of Custer. So what brings hundreds of folks out of their winter slumber in the middle of a snow storm?
Hank Fridell, Beetle Burn coordinator says, "In 2012 a Group of us got together and we were talking about how everyone in town was worried and concerned about the mountain pine beetle infestation that was really devastating the Custer community as well as much of the black hills and so we decided to start a conversation in the community."
a conversation led to a small group of people creating a 20 foot mountain pine beetle replica and then... burn it down.
Fridell says, "It's an effigy of a beetle and it really symbolizes actually be concerns that many of us have had."'
150 townsfolk marched to the giant beetle with fiery torches as the crowds watch nearby.
Matt White, Custer resident says, "I think it's great because it just brings a lot of the community out and it's a fun time to talk and me it's an obviously for kids to play and gather and to remember sort of what the battle was that the forest went through."
Fireworks light up the sky as those that have spent decades in Custer remember just how the landscape has changed.
Paul Horsted, Custer resident says, "I've personally watched the landscape change through historic photos taken back in the 1800s Custer's expedition other places and watching the changes in the forest since that time with new photos and you can really see how the trees have grown up now with a pine bark beetle epidemic that's changed again and we're back to more of a natural state of the forest I think over all."
But now that the beetle epidemic is over... what is the future for the small town celebration.
Fridell says, "Our concerns Environment have not changed and so we continue to burn the beetle.... They're gonna be back who knows maybe 20 years maybe a 100 years but thou be back and so people will have to deal with them again."
But for now the message for those pesky insects... Burn Beetle Burn!