As western South Dakota digs out from under its biggest snowstorm of the season thus far (now that it's spring, it only seems reasonable to expect bigger snowstorms), I would like to note a travel alert issued by the state Department of Public Safety over the weekend. With the snowstorm bearing down on Rapid City, site of the State AA Boys Basketball Tournament, the Department of Public Safety paid special attention to all the teenage fans traveling to and from the event. The agency urged parents whose children had driven to Rapid City for the tournament to contact their kids and tell them to stay put until the storm had blown over and the roads were clear.
Now understand that I appreciate such concern from our state government for the safety of our youth. But wait a minute: who are these parents who let their kids drive unchaperoned across the state with a big blizzard on the way? Wouldn't a better travel alert have been in order before the tournament, telling parents that letting their kids drive alone 300+ miles into a winter storm watch area (not to mention to a state tournament for 2-3 days without any adult supervision) is a bad idea?
Such a travel alert tells a lot about South Dakota culture. Every year kids at Montrose, the school I teach at, take off for the State B tournaments whether Montrose is playing in them or not (we made the State 9B football tournament last season for the first time since the 1980s). They go not to watch the games but to drink and trash hotel rooms. And parents seem perfectly accepting of behavior. Our school board even schedules the Fridays of the state basketball and football tournaments as days off to facilitate our students' participation in this parentally approved, state-sponsored bacchanalia.
As far as I know, all the kids got home o.k., and the Rapid City economy turned a nice profit on hotels, restaurants, and various consumables. Thank goodness we have the state to remind parents to call their kids with parental advice but not get in the way of a good time.
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