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Bismarck Becomes Playground at Night

October 9, 2002

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ They run across lawns in the dark, dodging fences, sprinklers and passing vehicles. And while it may startle some in this city, the participants say they mean no harm.

Bismarck is home to scores of young people who race around the city at night playing a game called ``Slip″ or ``Rush″ _ a modernized version of tag.

``It’s more of an adrenaline rush. That’s why all my friends go for it,″ said 16-year-old Genny Cashman. ``It’s better than sitting around on the couch on a Friday night watching a movie.″

The players duck behind trees, or sometimes cut across yards to avoid being seen by an approaching car. A player who is spotted has to ride in one of the vehicles.

It’s all good clean fun, participants say, though police are sometimes called to investigate what seems like suspicious behavior: youths dressed in black lurking about or tearing through streets.

``With us, it’s not really a major problem, but it is an annoyance for property owners and an inconvenience for us when we have to go to check out these reports,″ Bismarck Police Lt. Nick Sevart said.

Sevart said sometimes the players get carried away and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. ``We ask them to use common sense, and if officers ask them to stop, they need to stop and explain what they are doing.″

Last week, police said they chased two 20-year-old men who looked suspicious while trying to cut across an intersection, and drew their guns because one of the men appeared to be holding a weapon. It turned out to be a walkie-talkie, and the men, who were playing Slip, were released.

The game goes back at least two decades in Bismarck, a city of about 50,000, Sevart said. Occasionally people are arrested for trespassing or disorderly conduct.

Chad Petersen, now a twentysomething pastor at Bismarck’s Evangel Temple, is retired from the game, but he remembers its appeal. Though the game has no prize, its players say they’re in it for pride.

``It was for bragging rights _ that was completely it,″ Petersen said. ``It was an adrenaline rush never knowing if the next car was the person after you.″

Players usually run in groups of two or three, partly because the dark is not as scary with a friend, said Brittany Duffey, 17, a player.

``You want to take the back alleys and stay off the main streets,″ she said. ``It’s a fun game, especially in the summertime.″

The game has mostly wrapped up for the season this year as cold weather steadily sets in. There’s always next summer, though.

Cashman said she and her friends are not into drinking and parties, so the game gives them something to do on long summer nights.

``We don’t do it to bother people or the cops or anything,″ she said. ``We try to stay out of everybody’s way.″

Police have stopped the group to check on them, Cashman said. After explaining they are playing Slip, she and her friends sometimes ask the officers if they want to play.

So far, the officers have declined, she said.

For the most part, the game has gone on quietly. Many in Bismarck, in fact, say they have never even heard of it.

Alice Dorsher lives in the central part of town near Bismarck High School, the main corridor for Slip players running from the north part of town to the south.

``I haven’t seen a person,″ she said.

But if people do play, they should not be trespassing, Dorsher said.

Petersen, the pastor, said he never ran into police officers or heard complaints from homeowners when he played the game.

``It was about having fun and not getting into too much trouble, and trying to get it done before curfew,″ he said.

Said Susie Polasky, another player: ``It’s cool that it’s safe enough to play in Bismarck at night.″

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