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Decade old tradition takes on a new twist, burning of the Coronavirus

“Now we’re faced with a pandemic and the community’s coming together again to burn our favorite nemesis the burning beetle and you’ll notice he’s got the COVIDs on there too,” said Fridell.
The 2021 burning of the beetle not only brings awareness to the mountain pine beetle epidemic...
The 2021 burning of the beetle not only brings awareness to the mountain pine beetle epidemic here in the Black Hills but it’s also a hopeful end to the Coronavirus pandemic.(Miranda O'Bryan)
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 6:22 PM CST
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CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA) - 2020 wasn’t an easy year for most people. In fact, it might have been frustrating enough to want to light something on fire. The Southern Hills shows us how a beetle might help you release some of those emotions.

Burning of the beetle, an almost decade-old event that started because of a nasty little bug, the mountain pine beetle.

“It was just so devastating,” said Hank Fridell, Burning of the Beetle coordinator. “It killed hundreds of thousands of trees and people were so worried and upset and angry and we decided to get together and come up with an artistic response to that epidemic that happened.”

The 2021 burning of the beetle not only brings awareness to the mountain pine beetle epidemic here in the Black Hills but it’s also a hopeful end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Now we’re faced with a pandemic and the community’s coming together again to burn our favorite nemesis the burning beetle and you’ll notice he’s got the COVIDs on there too,” said Fridell. “We’ve all been dealing with this and it’s just been very tough on people and so we want to take a kind of light-hearted approach to it and burn the sucker.”

Because of the pandemic, this year’s event will look slightly different. The artist showcase/variety show will be online this year, but the main event will continue as in the past.

“Well, we’re hoping that everyone wears masks,” said Fridell. “Especially on the torch march, we’ve got about 500 people that’ll be walking up and when you get up to the top, a lot of people can view this thing from their own cars, okay? And the pageant hills a pretty big area, people can watch from their cars, they can gather around but we really encourage that wear your masks and stay a little distant.”

The official beetle and COVID burning will be on January 16.

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