Black Hills Cruisin' 2017 1- Black Hills Cruisin 2017 - Page 21

Page 20, August 2017 Black Hills Cruisin’ By Billy Drown Knowing former Gov. Mike Rounds was going to be cruising through Custer during the Sturgis Mayor’s Ride a few years ago, Custer Area Chamber of Commerce executive di- rector Dave Ressler knew he wanted to leave a lasting impression, but wasn’t sure how. So he slept on it. While snoozing, Ressler dreamt of himself and Mitch McLain, aka Gen. George Custer, waving to and greeting the bikers as they rolled into town. The next morn- ing, Ressler grabbed McLain and headed for the entrance of Custer. So a bit north on Hwy. 385, McLain and Ressler, both dressed in their period garb, waved to and greeted the bikers rolling into town. It was a treat, at least for the most part. “A lot of bikers stopped their bikes and we almost saw several accidents,” said Ressler. “We knew what we were doing was a good idea, but we needed to rethink it.” Deciding the intersection of Hwy. 385/16 was a better spot for them to greet, McLain and Ressler packed their things and walked south. While the Sturgis Mayor’s Ride posse was leaving town, McLain and Ressler saluted Rounds, who was in front, and waved goodbye to the rest. “From that point on, we knew that intersection was the place to be,” Ressler said. That was in 2006, and since then, the art of greeting has expanded. Instead of just McLain and Ressler waving away, now up to a dozen people dressed in period garb roam the streets greeting vehicles as they roll into Custer during Custer Cruisin’ week. “It (greeting) makes Custer a welcoming community to the bikers,” said McLain. “Nu- merous times, bikers have said here in Custer they are greeted the most courteously. Sev- eral people told us they just planned to pass through Custer, but when they saw us out there greeting them, they had to stop and thank us.” Getting bikers off their bikes is the name of the game. Ressler and McLain call the game, “Chumming.” During the game, the two focus on filling up one side of the street first. Like fishing, the two do their best to reel in some rid- ers with waves and greetings. Once the bikers park, they are caught. “Chumming” doesn’t take long once Ressler, McLain and the rest of the gang get going. “There was a local merchant who had parked her truck in front of her business and was taking up two spots. I as ked her if she could move her truck to the side of the building, so we could fill those spots with bikes,” Ressler said. Mitch McLain, aka Gen. George Custer, left, along with Custer Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dave Ressler, is part of the official Custer welcom- ing committee during Custer Cruisin’. The two spend many hours out on the street, greeting visitors and interacting with those who spend part of their day in the city. After being hesitant and telling him she was only taking up a few spots, Ressler guar- anteed her they could fill those spots in five minutes. Sure enough they did. “We move a lot and everyone is working hard,” Ressler said. “We hope they will have a memorable experience and are impacted on how they are welcomed into this community, you know when they go home they will tell their friends they have to stop in Custer,” said McLain. But to get tourists to spread the word, a lot of hard work out in the hot summer sun goes into greeting. “The first year we greeted, we both nearly got heat exhaustion,” said McLain. “We both stayed out there for way too long, but it is hard to walk away from that intersection. It still is.” That first year McLain and Ressler greeted six hours a day. Now, they greet for four. Even though the heat can be unbearable some of those days, local merchants do their best to help out by bringing refreshments to help them stay cool. “It is cool that the business owners come up to us and thank us,” said Ressler. “They know what we are doing helps the community.” McLain agrees, “It does work well for the community and it is rewarding. It is always nice to do something when you can see the benefits of it. When I walk away from that in- tersection, I can pat myself on the back and know I did a good job for the community.”