Social distancing was taken to a whole new level on Saturday afternoon on Box Butte Avenue in Alliance. The buzz has spread around town earlier that day that everyone was welcome to come out and “Cruise the Butte”.
Boy that brings back a lot of fond memories for generations around the area!
Cruisin’ the Butte was something that was done in both Alliance and Hemingford for as long as most can remember. But it’s just not something that today’s youth often does. At least not like it was done “back in our day”.
Box Butte General Hospital employee, Kim Tschacher, made a post on her Facebook page on the Friday before asking if anyone would be interested in cruising the Butte.
“For those who don’t know how to cruise the Butte, you drive down Box Butte between First and 12th street and honk and/ or wave to your friends,” she stated. “I for one, need to have some human experiences. (With the hashtag, sick of being socially distanced) But I know how important it is.”
Pillars for the Park founder Tami Swearingen saw the post and couldn’t help but run with it.
She had tried to organize a “Cruisin’ the Butte” event for a while now. First for her class reunion in 2017 and then again as a fundraiser for the Pillars in the Park.
“I tried to get ahold of Chief Kiss (with the Alliance Police Department) but had no luck,” said Swearingen. “He had given me permission to host a Cruise the Butte event in the past so I just wanted to get his blessing before I started sharing it all over Facebook.”
With running the Pillars donations she has developed a large following online so she knew that if she began sharing the event it would just grow.
She got word from the APD that she should clear it with the Panhandle Public Health District.
“Kim Engel called me and said she thought it was a wonderful idea!” Swearingen said. “She said it was a safe way of being social while social distancing.”
From there she began promoting, sharing, and spreading the word.
“I just wanted to make sure there was as big of a turnout as possible,” she said. “Let’s show the world what our community can do not matter what the circumstances.”
“When I put it online my thoughts were not only to get people out to enjoy some fresh air but these small businesses, I’m worried about them,” Swearingen said. “I told people to go get gas, go get something to eat, a treat, a drink, whatever, just go spend some money at our small businesses.”
As somebody who frequently cruised as an Alliance High Schooler she said.
“I just wanted everybody that ever Cruised the Butte to get out of the house and socialize.”
That’s exactly what happened. Generations of people came out to enjoy the event on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“I knew it would be big but I had no idea it would be that big,” she laughed.
At one point it was a solid line of cars from 1st Street to 14th Street! In both directions! It was so much fun! Windows were down, people were waving and honking their horns. It really was an emotional and unforgettable experience.
“For two hours all of these people were feeling better,” she said. “They weren’t scared, they weren’t worrying, they were honking, waving, and smiling!”
“I counted 250 cars and quit counting!” Swearingen said. “Filled with people that ranged in ages from 16 to 89!”
Box Butte County Treasurer and Hemingford High School Alumni, Valery Bell was one of those drivers. Bell, her husband Chad and their two sons were honking and waving with the windows down.
“It was so fun,” Bell said. “Even my kids enjoyed it. Several friends from ‘back in my day’ were there and everyone was smiling and having a good time.”
“It was great harmless fun while social distancing,” she added.
Hemingford Resident Jan Coleman said, “I lived on the Butte growing up and my dad was a police officer. He‘d sit in the living room in his recliner and count how many time I cruised. Then a police car would pull up beside me, roll down his window, and say: he said it was time to come home now.”
Coleman added, “Saved a lot a lot of gas just sitting on my hood in front of our house with friends, waving. I didn’t go this time, sounded fun though.”
The event spread throughout Facebook with videos and photos. Word spread throughout the state and other communities followed suit by hosting similar events on Sunday.
It was such a big hit that the community is invited to Cruise the Butte every Saturday at 4 p.m. as a way to “get together” without actually “getting together”.
Janine Bullard at the Alliance Theater will be selling large bags of popcorn on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. until the crowd stops.
“No butter, just good old popcorn,” Bullard said. “I think if you pull in parallel in front of the theatre, my employees and I can give it to you through your window. The price will be $5 cash only.”
Alliance Police Chief John Kiss gave an update also on the event:
“Contrary to rumor, “Cruising the Butte” is not against the law. I suspect it fell out of fashion as gas prices increased and online gaming became popular. The community as a whole is excited to see you out and about showing off the shine on your 2019 (or 1959) Buick; however, I’d like to provide guidance moving forward for your cruising pleasure.
First, if you are the driver, please keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2. If you struggle with this rule, perhaps consider leaving your cell phone in the glove box, or the back seat, or in the trunk. If you really want to pretend like its 1978, we didn’t have cell phones anyway, so just leave them at home.
Second, seat belts should be worn at all times. We are glad you have a sunroof, but we’d rather not see passengers sticking their heads or arms out through the roof. This is not the 1980’s, this is not the movie “Big,” and you are not Tom Hanks.
Third, the best places to U-turn on Box Butte are at 1st Street and 11th Street. The No U-Turn Sign at 11th Street can be ignored after 4 PM (by code). Please don’t U-turn at the 4-way stop on 14th Street. People find 4-way stops confusing enough. Let’s not complicate things.
Fourth, if you choose to get out of your vehicle (which I do not condone) make sure your car is in Park. I won’t mention any names here.
And finally, please obey all traffic signs and laws. No engine-revving, tire squealing, street-racing, speeding, drifting, etc. Our officers also want to practice social distancing by not having to respond to accidents or handle traffic violations.
Follow these rules so we can all have fun watching you re-live your youth (while you still can).
Happy (and safe) Cruising!”