Annual ‘Burning Beetle’ event will look a little different due to the pandemic

CUSTER, S.D. — The 8th annual ‘Burning Beetle’ event will take place this weekend in Custer with some help from the Custer Volunteer Fire Department. Each year, a beetle is constructed and then burned on Pageant Hill. The event was created to help the Custer community and the Black Hills come to grips with the mountain pine beetle pandemic.

When the mountain pine beetle epidemic hit the Black Hills, the community was devastated. But the town of Custer came together and decided to instead celebrate and raise awareness on how to protect the forest.

Hank Fridell, Coordinator for Burning Beetle, said, “The mountain pine beetle reminded us all of our connection to the forest. This is the environment we live in, many of us are land owners, we’ve got trees and we want to be able to protect those trees. To remind ourselves that we need to be vigilant, not only about epidemics that happen, but also pandemics. We need to pay attention and stay together as a community because if we act together we can get things done.”

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s day of events will look a little different than in years past. The ‘Burning Beetle’ will not be hosting an official-sponsored pub crawl and will be hosting their variety show virtually on their Facebook page. The beetle itself will look a little different as well, since it will be sporting COVID-19 virus particles on its head.

“We’ve all been dealing with this and it’s just been very tough on people. And so we want to take a light hearted approach to it and burn the sucker,” said Fridell.

The burning of the beetle will take place on Pageant Hill on Saturday at 5 PM. The event is free to attend. Anyone wishing to carry a torch for the event must pay $20.

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