Mr. Chase’s class wins SDDOT snowplow naming contest

Esther Noe
Look out winter, Snow-key the Bear is on the job. That is the new name of the snowplow that runs through Hill City thanks to Brady Chase’s third-grade class at Hill City Elementary School. 
The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) started the annual Name the Snowplow Contest four years ago. 
“It was introduced just to engage our customers,” said Rich Zacher, Area Engineer for SDDOT. 
Because of the contest, people go to the SDDOT website to submit names or look at the names. While there, they might see a more important message or learn more about the highways. The SDDOT has around 3,000 miles of road and plows the snow with just over 400 plows. 
“It’s worked really well,” said Zacher. “We’ve been naming 12 snowplows a year, and this year, we’re lucky enough that Mr. Chase’s class was chosen.” 
“We had over 600 (names submitted) this year, and that’s been fairly consistent over the three years,” said Bret Mattice, communications specialist for SDDOT. 
Entries come from people of all ages as well as classrooms and businesses. Zacher said it was exciting to have a classroom winner. Mattice agreed, saying the more children the better because they get so excited. 
Chase had his class enter the contest as a way to get the children involved. 
“They took to it. They came up with some pretty good ones (names),” said Chase. 
Everyone came up with a name, and then Chase picked four of the most creative ones and had the children vote for their favorite. Snow-key the Bear got the most votes. When they found out they could enter more than one name, they also entered Below Zero Hero, Icy And Feisty and Cousin Shreddy. 
“This is the first time we’ve ever done it so when we got the email from Mr. Gardner, we were all pretty excited about it,” said Chase. 
Chase, himself, first learned the class won when a friend from high school who works for SDDOT saw the list. 
“He sent me a picture of it, and he goes, ‘Dude, you did it,’” said Chase. 
“It was a neat name for the area and also helped recognize our school a little bit too,” said Hill City Elementary School principal Samantha Weaver. 
“I think it’s something we’ll definitely continue to do,” said Chase. 
The SDDOT brought Snow-key the Bear to Hill City Elementary School Jan. 29 so the children could see their snowplow. 
Snow-key the Bear is one of 23 snowplows with a tow plow configuration which allows the plow to clear 40 feet of road all at once according to Greg Boness, maintenance supervisor for SDDOT. It clears the road between Custer and the Keystone Wye Bridge.
“So it virtually can take care of that whole section of road by itself,” said Boness. Then, a smaller snowplow comes through and cleans up the edges. 
Boness is in charge of reporting on road conditions on 511 and calls plows out to wherever the snow is. 
Usually, SDDOT names newer plows. However, because a class from Hill City won the contest, Zacher said the plow that goes through Hill City was given the name. 
“So every snow event, they’ll have a chance to see it,” said Zacher. 
The snowplow is about 5 years old so it will carry the name Snow-key the Bear on the front window for at least 10 years until it is retired. 
The children got to walk around the snowplow and ask questions. As they explored, children could be heard squealing, “This is so exciting,” and chanting, “We’re famous. We’re famous. We’re famous.”
After looking around the outside, Snow-key the Bear’s operator, Doyle Boisen, took the children up to the cab. He showed them the computer system, what the toggles and switches do, the lights and the radio. One boy heard the talk so many times that he could narrate it by the end. 
The children were a little disappointed that they could not honk the horn, but they enjoyed sitting on the air ride seat.
Boisen has been with SDDOT for a little over two years. To be a plow driver, he had to go through eight hours of riding with an instructor and drive for 40 hours in the vehicle with an instructor. 
When it snows, Boisen heads out around 4 a.m. and works until the snow stops or until the road is passable and safe. It takes around an hour and a half to make a round trip from Custer to the Keystone Wye Bridge. If fully loaded with salt and fuel, Boisen can make two and a half to three rounds before having to stop and reload. 
In between, he takes breaks, walks around the snowplow, wipes off the turn signals and does other such things. It makes for a 12 to 15 hour day. 
“Usually, we’re not out after dark because there’re just too many things that could happen. You can’t see good enough,” said Boisen.
To celebrate the win, school superintendent Blake Gardner gave the third-grade class ice cream sandwiches. 
Zacher also gave the children light-up bands to put on their wrists or ankles. He said, “It’s just to make the kids more visible when walking to school in the dark.” 
The Name the Snowplow Contest is open for entries every November. The voting then takes place in December, and contest winners get to meet their snowplows in January. 

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