KIMBALL — With a population of about 700, Kimball doesn't often see bumper-to-bumper traffic, even on a weekend in which Main Street businesses are open as usual.
But that's changed the past several Saturdays, as Anita Holan, director of the Kimball Economic Development Corporation, has begun organizing themed events during which residents can drive up and down Main Street, allowing the community to get together while maintaining CDC-recommended social distancing guidelines.
"I've been trying to figure out different things to keep people occupied. I know some businesses are getting stressed. We've still got to get out and do family things, and this is a good way to do it," Holan told The Daily Republic.
On Saturday, the town honored its high school seniors, having them line up along Main Street's sidewalks while virtually the entire town paraded past, cheered them on and honked in decorated cars, four-wheelers and motorcycles.
Kimball isn't the only town in the area to start such an event, as many municipalities across the state have closed some retail stores and banned dining in at restaurants to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Similar cruising events have been held in Gregory, Dallas and Winner. Holan said she got the idea from an event held in Lemmon and started planning Kimball's first event after getting public support on a post about Lemmon she shared on Facebook.
"People were commenting on it, and so the following Monday, I decided to make a poster, and if some people decided to get out of their house and go cruise Main, that would be great. And I had shares within like five minutes," Holan said.
After Kimball's first cruise night, Holan challenged Platte and Wessington Springs to plan their own. Loree Gaikowski, chamber and development director for Wessington Springs, said she was encouraged by the success of Kimball's first attempt a few weeks ago.
"I wanted to kind of wait and see if people were actually going to stay in their cars. I was kind of hesitant about it, and then it went really well," Gaikowski said. "... (Holan) did hers, and I quizzed her on how it went, and then she publicly challenged me."
Gaikowski said she was happy with the April 11 event's turnout, estimating up to 100 cars may have been present despite the weather. Kelsey Lindoe, executive director of the Platte Chamber of Commerce, estimated Platte's first event, held Friday night, saw about the same level of participation.
Lindoe said while Platte likely won't have a cruising event weekly, she plans to put together themed nights such as a senior night, and the events may be held every other Friday.
"Anita in Kimball has been doing a phenomenal job kind of bolstering her community right now, and especially with those seniors," Lindoe said. "We're going to follow in her footsteps and see if we can kind of support them as we move forward."
In the towns that have begun holding cruise nights, restaurants have advertised curbside dinner specials and other businesses have offered discounts for those participating.
"I kind of look at it as, people have still got to be able to see each other, and we've got to create environments where they can do it safely and still feel that sense of community. That's really important," Gaikowski said.