Burn, Beetle, Burn…Again!

When last we I spoke, I mentioned a wind storm that was bearing down on us. Turned out to be every bit as wild as predicted. The winds arrived Wednesday evening and blew nonstop for almost 48 hours. Sustained winds between 50-60 mph with gusts to 81 mph in Rapid City. That’s equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane! It was brutal, and caused some damage around town. These aren’t my photos, but give you a pretty good idea of the aftermath.

The worst part was trying to sleep. I ended up on the couch Wednesday night — not because I was in the doghouse with my wife, but rather, the living room is more protected from the wind than our west-facing bedroom, where every gust was whistling through the eaves and shaking the house. Wind is a fact of life around here, but the duration of this event was unusual.

We were glad those winds died down Friday afternoon, because we had weekend plans that were half outdoors/half indoors. Saturday, we ventured down to Custer for the Burning Beetle Festival. We went last year and had such a blast, we decided to make it an annual tradition. You can follow the link if you want more details about the event. In a nutshell, the city of Custer sets fire to a mountain pine beetle effigy placed atop discarded Christmas trees every January. This year, they got creative and added spiky COVID viruses to the beetle.

We got to town mid-afternoon and settled into the Buglin’ Bull, a restaurant and sports bar on the main drag, for cocktails and appetizers while waiting for sundown. It was a virtual repeat of last year, right down to the food (chislic and stuffed mushrooms) and drinks (Old Fashioneds for me, beer for Tara).

When we first got to town, the sun was shining brightly. “I would love to see it snow one year,” Tara said wistfully.

Little did we know she’d get her wish…

We tabbed out at 4:30 and checked into the Super 8. Once again history repeated itself, because it was the same place we stayed last year. That had been such a fun weekend, we figured, why mess with perfection?

We arrived at Pageant Hill at 5:00, just as twilight was settling in. By then, some ominous-looking clouds had rolled in. Right about the time the torch-carrying mob crested the hill, it started snowing. Like, really coming down hard. Which created a great atmosphere!

It’s really something to see a group of people chanting “burn, beetle, burn!” while a drummer bangs away before lighting the whole thing on fire. Definitely a unique experience, especially for South Dakota.

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded to a premium plan so I can share video. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Plus, no more ads, and unlimited access to premium themes. Totally worth it! But I digress.

The beetle burning was accompanied by a fireworks display, too. I was so caught up in the moment, I forgot to be cold.

After the beetle had pretty much burned itself down to ashes, we picked up a pizza and returned to the room. We’d brought along a cooler of drinks and kicked back for a little while before heading down to the pool and hot tub. Tara’s coworker Chelsea and her boyfriend and roommate were also in town for the festival, as they were last year (deja vu x3), and came down to join us. We ended up killing a couple of hours down there, only leaving when management reminded us that the pool had technically closed 15 minutes earlier. Oops.

We checked out of the motel this morning and I suggested we take the scenic drive back to town down Highway 44. “Great idea!” Tara said. And it was…at least in theory. The road was very icy and slick after the previous evening’s snowfall, which made for a white-knuckle drive. We hadn’t anticipated that, but got home without sliding off the road. Whew.

Hope your weekend was as fun as ours!

23 thoughts on “Burn, Beetle, Burn…Again!

  1. That wind storm sounds nasty. Lucky your house didn’t end up without a roof…

    I never heard of a beetle burning event like this around here in Toronto but there is a similar event in Zurich, Switzerland. They burn a snowman on top of some huge pile of wood or something, which is supposed to signify the end of winter. It happens in March I believe if I remember correctly. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the actual event itself although we were just a short train ride away from Zurich back then, but we saw it on tv. (My parents didn’t like crowds, and inevitably us kids would have wanted hotdogs and other treats and they thought it would be too expensive).

    Anyway, I clicked the video too and enjoyed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We were there for four years—two in Linton and two in New Salem. I earned my degree from the University of Mary in Bismarck, commuting in the snow and ice for four winters. We don’t miss that, but we do miss the people.


    1. Wind is pretty much the most pointless type of weather. You can’t take a picture of it and it doesn’t provide any moisture (though I suppose in the summertime, a cool breeze can feel refreshing).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And then there’s the whole seed disbursement, but mother nature has provided several ways to do that, so wind isn’t technically necessary. There are the sailors, I suppose, but for the most part yes, totally pointless.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wind terrifies me with all the tall trees surrounding our house. Yes, very hard to sleep through it. Glad you had a fun repeat experience at Burning Beetle. It’s like there’s no pandemic there?! We are still hunkered down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you know, our governor has famously insisted on keeping the state open for business as usual. It’s very easy to be lulled into a complacency of sorts. Don’t get me wrong; we still mask up and take all the other precautions. But the fact that we can go out to eat and attend festivals like this is certainly unique compared with other parts of the country, I know. We feel pretty fortunate.


  3. I’ve lived through a Category 1 hurricane and the damage afterward was weirdly predictable– like a tree falling, gutters coming loose. Nothing I want to do again, unlike your fun weekend goofing off burning beetles! I tell you, I’m living vicariously through you right now. We stay home, we watch TV, we wait for the vaccine. The pandemic keeps us in our bubble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve also lived through a Category 1 hurricane in Hawaii. Same type of damage. Then there were the earthquakes in California, blizzards here, funnel clouds in Ohio.

      I think I’ve always wanted to become a storm chaser because normally the storms are chasing ME.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t blame you…scary how some people just ignore it. Here in the UK everyone is sorrowing that the large Glastonbury music festival has already been cancelled for 2021…fines for house gatherings of >15 people have just soared to the dizzy heights of £500 (around $1000) but they have to catch you first!


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