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What kind of message are we sending kids about drinking, driving with Thunder Nites?

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 10:50 a.m. CST

To the editor:

This past Friday evening I was exposed to the Newton Thunder Nites motorcycle event. I say exposed, because for the first time I was actually on the square during the event and got to see it raw and unfiltered.

I was not opposed to this event when I first heard about it. I don’t have a problem with motorcyclists. I support the community in its attempt to promote Newton and what it has to offer to those in this community and surrounding communities.

Obviously I’m writing this for a specific reason so let me get to the point. I was there with my wife and my 2-year-old son and one of our older daughters. My son likes the motorcycles; he got a real kick out of the bikes and the big noises.

What I was kind of sorry to see was so many teens running around the square unsupervised. Now, I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud as I believe our teens need freedom to have fun, but there seemed to be a lack of any law enforcement in the area. 

Like a deliberate absence.

On at least three separate occasions, I witnessed underage smoking and even got to watch a young girl (12 to 14 years old) smoke her first cigarette. Sadly, I also witnessed a few instances of teens who were clearly impaired either from alcohol or some other substance.

These things can be expected from a few young teens, and I’m sure regardless of the area or event, those same things will always occur anytime there is lack of supervision. We are bound to have kids making bad choices.

The more I thought about it — and the real reason I’m writing this — is more to the point of how the public and other people see the community of Newton. I mean the reason this event was set up was to promote the community and bring in business.

As I walked to my car that night, I saw many bikes leaving the barricaded area of the square where all the cyclists were parked for the event. If I were naive I would assume all of these law abiding citizens hadn’t had a drop of alcohol.

Surely none of the riders had imbibed beyond their abilities. Even if the latter were true, what image are we portraying to surrounding communities, and the public? Additionally, what a horrible example to our children.

It’s OK to drink and drive as long as ... ?

What excuse are we willing to give our kids?

We are condoning and promoting drinking and driving. Our community is promoting drinking and driving as acceptable even in small amounts. Invite all these motorcyclists to our community, throw them a party, serve them alcohol and send them on their way when its over.

How many bikes were left parked on the square Friday night because bikers couldn’t drive home? How many should have been parked there? I’m sure lots of excuses will be thrown out about designated drivers and I’m sure some did act responsibly, but many I’m afraid did not.

I’m sure this is not going to be well received, but I assure you that image is not something I want my kids to think is OK. I question weather the City of Newton should engage in promotion and sponsorship.

And, to the law enforcement officers of Newton, I ask you: Is it OK to drink and drive if I’ve only had one or two beers?

So I say this in closing: Is this a good event? Should it be cancelled or no longer held?

I don’t know. I feel something is missing from the aspect of responsibility. I doubt beer vendors were serving minors, and I’m not suggesting that, but I am concerned about how this looks overall.

Is there a better way? Please show me how I’m thinking about this wrong. I’m open to suggestions.

Micah Cope

Newton

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