Burn... Beetle... Burn!

The familiar phrase was shouted during Custer’s annual Burning Beetle celebration
More than 200 people headed to Custer to participate in the annual Burning Beetle celebration.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 9:16 AM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - On Saturday, people headed down to Custer to participate in their Burning Beetle celebration.

The annual event was created to help people come to terms with the Pine Beetle infestation in the Black Hills National Forest.

And for the past 11 years, the community of Custer has turned a devastating infestation into a way to raise awareness for the forest and come together as a community.

The two-day celebration begins with a pre-crawl at various community venues, along with a variety show before people marched to Pageant Hill to light the beetle on fire.

“And this year it’s pretty special, in the past the beetle kind of was laid out on a funeral pyre. This year it’s standing up with its arms out and looking like it’s ready. So, I’m pretty excited about this year,” said Hank Fridell, who has been involved with the event since its creation in 2012.

The mob to Pageant Hill was led by the Custer High School’s drum group and puppets created by the Butterly Puppet Theatre. The celebration is also a fundraiser as money raised from torch tickets got to support the arts in the Custer community.

“You know arts help so much, it helps with school, it helps creative outlets, and it’s beautiful to look at. So, we want our community to be beautiful with art and our youth and our community members to have it,” said Carrie Moore, a community member involved with the Burning Beetle.

The Burning Beetle celebration is held every year on the third Saturday of January.