Light the pyre: Time to burn

Jason Ferguson
The forecast for Custer on Saturday may be only in the 20s, but it will be plenty warm on Pageant Hill at 5 p.m.
That is when, for the seventh consecutive year, the Burning Beetle will take place, with the burning of a beetle effigy the centerpiece of activities that begin Friday at 5 p.m., with the “Vigilance” sculpture dedication at the Custer County Library parking lot.
After a national search, the Custer Area Arts Council selected Jared “Cappie” Capp from Spearfish to design, create and install a sculpture that celebrates the Custer community’s response to the mountain pine beetle infestation of the Black Hills exemplified by the events surrounding the annual Burning Beetle festival.  
The sculpture is named “Vigilance.” It was placed in front of the future Custer Community Center last Friday morning.
Cappie describes the statue “Rising out of the ground on a foundation stone with a pillar of flame.  The foundation stone represents the community and the ephemeral flame pays homage to the annual burning celebration. Saw blades represent the cyclical nature of the outbreaks and a practical method to combat the mountain pine beetle. Donors will be recognized by medallions embedded in the foundation stone. A time capsule will be encased in the foundation stone.”   
Vigilance is intended to commemorate the community’s united efforts in battling the bark beetle, but also the spirit of this passionate community embodied by Burning Beetle: a day-long event culminating in the burning of a giant beetle effigy.
“Burning Beetle stands for our community’s resilience and collective personality. It is an opportunity to reflect upon and educate the community about continued forest management in the twilight of this latest infestation,” said Hank Fridell, one of the event’s organizers.  
“It represents the importance of art in our community — a place where multitudes of artists work and reside,” added Krystal Hegerfeld, the Arts Council Board member leading the fundraising drive for Vigilance. “It is a spectacular celebration of living in the Black Hills and of coming together in the cold, dark of January to celebrate who we are.”
Those who want to donate may do so by contacting the Custer Area Arts Council. Contributions may be tax deductible. The sculpture budget exceeds $75,000.
The events kick off Saturday with the annual Burning Beetle Variety Show at the Custer Jr./Sr. High School Theatre at 3 p.m. The show features local performers and admission will be by donation. 
At 4:45 p.m. the annual Torch March will begin at the school parking lot and proceed to Pageant Hill for the Burn the Beetle event at 5 p.m. The huge beetle, as always, will be loaded with fireworks to produce a dramatic display. Those who wish to carry a torch in the march have two chances to purchase one for $10 — at the Vigilance dedication and at 2:30 p.m. at the variety show. There are a limited number of torch tickets for sale, so approximately half will be reserved for the variety show.
Prior to the march,  parade torches will be ceremonially lit with a torch carried from Vigilance by the Custer High School cross country team.
Following the beetle burn, music will start at 6 p.m. at downtown businesses for the Bug Crawl, which runs until 8:30 p.m. The cost to take in the Bug Crawl is $5 for one venue and $10 for a wristband giving access to all downtown venues.
Among the acts for the Bug Crawl are:
• Buglin’ Bull: Steve Thorpe and Pegie Douglas/Paul Swenson
• Custer Wolf: Josh Williamson and Andy Koosman
• Pizza Works: Roy Hendrickson Band
• Gold Pan Saloon:Steve Gardner
• VFW: Hidden Timber
• VFW Basement (a non-alcohol youth event sponsored by Custer Student Council): Lily Fridell and Fire to the Masses
• The Custer Beacon: The Hermosa Prairie Dogs
The “Spin the Beetle” bike race that started last year as part of the festivities was cancelled due to lack of snow.
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