This is how we social distance

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
(Photo Contributed/Sentinel Photos by Allen Hamil) A tradition from the past was brought back to life in Le Mars as people took to the street to “scoop the loop” on Central Avenue Sunday afternoon. More than 200 vehicles, began the route at 4 p.m., traveling from “the loop” at the north end of Central Avenue to the intersection of Lincoln Street Southeast to wave and call hello to friends amid the social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LE MARS — An old tradition was brought back to life in Le Mars Sunday.

Shoot the loop — an activity teens did for many years in downtown Le Mars, was revived as a way to get out of the house and see friends and neighbors in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

Mark Wiltgen, who recently returned home from New York following a company business trip, put the idea out on Facebook Saturday night.

“I saw on Facebook that somebody in Tea, South Dakota, was doing it, and I thought that would be awesome because the Le Mars loop was great back in the day, you know. I just put it on my Facebook page around 10 p.m. Saturday and told people to share it,” Wiltgen said.

By Sunday morning, there were 70-some shares.

Wiltgen and about a dozen others started the drive a little before 4 p.m., Sunday.

“It was about 10 minutes to 4 and I thought nobody’s going to show up,” he said.

It didn’t take long however for the streets to be filled with vehicles.

One of the early participants was Nicole Gengler.

“It was amazing, I didn’t know what to expect as far as how many people would actually show up and it was an incredible turnout,” Gengler said. “Some of us were there before 4 o’clock, about a dozen cars. It grew really quick. We moved from the speed limit to crawling to stopping.”

Wiltgen added, “Everybody was smiling and having a good time, I couldn’t believe it. It was cool.”

Scoop the loop was something Wiltgen, a 1994 graduate of Gehlen Catholic, did during his high school years.

Sunday’s event brought back memories for many, including Wiltgen.

“There was a guy who had a handicap sticker on his license plate and I bet he was in his 80s, and he was waving at people, every time he would go by somebody he was waving, having all kinds of fun. There were young kids there, too. A wide range of people,” Wiltgen said. “Vehicle windows were open, blaring music, honking horns — a lot of horn honking, and a lot of waving. It was fun.”

Sunday’s loop ran from the teardrop on the north end of Central Avenue to Lincoln Street, where vehicles made the loop to get back on Central.

Wiltgen recalls when “the loop” would go from the Lincoln Street intersection to First Street Northwest, where cars would go around the block and come back to the stoplight by Northwest Bank.

“That was our social media,” he said.

He said with the nice weather Sunday, everyone was still at their safe distances and out in the fresh air.

“I couldn’t believe how many people were having this much fun. Good, clean fun is what I call it,” he said.

Wiltgen was also quick to point out he doesn’t get the credit for the activity.

“If these people hadn’t shown up, it would have been nothing. Thanks everybody who shared it. I give everbody in Le Mars credit,” he said.

For Gengler, who grew up in California, scoop the loop was a new experience.

“This was something they did in high school, so what it meant to them was completely different that what it meant to me,” she said.

“I know they were playing music, bringing back that time, we were just jammin’ out, dancing in our seats, hollering out at our friends, it was really awesome by the way the community came together in just such a short period of time,” Gengler said. “A couple of our friends had their teenage sons driving them. I saw teenagers, to people in their 60s.”

Gengler said she really liked how the community came together.

“I loved that it was the whole idea that you’re not supposed to leave your house right now, everybody stay home, don’t spread your germs, and yet we were able to get out, get together and still be quarantined. We were all in our own cars with our own families, so we weren’t spreading anything,” she stated.

The event allowed community members to respect the order of social distancing created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while lifting everyone’s spirits that they weren’t in this alone.

“The other thing I enjoyed about this was how it brought everyone sheer happiness and excitement, and I think it was a great morale booster for all of us that were there,” she said. “This gave us a piece of the normal that we used to know.”

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