Following the Sun Prairie Cardinals’ big 49-7 win over Janesville Parker on a hot Friday night, a few young fans thought a Frosty would hit the spot.
The seven incoming freshman boys, six black and one white, arrived at Wendy’s at 743 Main Street in Sun Prairie around 9:30 pm, according to Krista Smedema, the mother of one of the boys. The doors were locked, despite the listed hours being 10 am to 10 pm.
“They could see other people eating in there, so then they went around to the front entrance and tried that and that was locked as well,” Smedema said. “They didn’t understand why it was locked because they could see other kids in there eating, and then the manager allowed an adult male with his toddler child to come into the restaurant and then locked the doors again. Then (the boys) knocked and asked if they could come in and use the bathroom and buy something to eat and they were just ignored. So then they all just decided to call us as parents to come get them.”
Smedema said two parents were able to come and pick up the boys in two groups to be driven to their homes. One of those parents had just arrived when a police car arrived as well, summoned by the manager just minutes after the boys had knocked on the door.
“They didn’t even realize they were having the police called on them,” Smedema said. “So the couple remaining boys that were there, two of them just walked off and left the restaurant and just walked away. Then the police stopped them basically said to them, you’re not in trouble, we just want to talk to you, and that the manager was being rude, and basically that they just wanted to make it look like they were saying something to the boys, but that the manager just didn’t like that there were so many kids in the parking lot.”
Smedema said the boys simply knocked on the door and then called their parents, and that her son was home by 9:45 — meaning the police must have been called almost immediately after the boys arrived outside the Wendy’s.
Smedema said she called the restaurant after her son got home and was told they had to close their lobby early, but was not given a reason.
Sun Prairie police confirmed that officers were dispatched to the Wendy’s Friday night, but that they found no disturbance.
A manager who answered the phone at the Wendy’s in Sun Prairie on Tuesday said, “We have no comment,” and hung up.
A message left with Wendy’s corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ohio was not immediately returned, and the apparent owner of the franchise, 4601 West North LLC, does not have any contact information listed publicly.
Smedema said it could have been worse, and it was an unfortunate learning experience for the boys.
“I was like man, if any one of you would have handled yourself incorrectly in this situation, you know, if you just get upset or mad like, ‘Why did she call the police?’ And the next thing you know some of you kids are in trouble,” she said. “None of them took it that way. They just were genuinely confused because they just wanted to go get a Frosty.”
The whole episode took only about 15 minutes, but left a lasting impression, Smedema said.
“I also wanted to take it as a life lesson for all of them,” she said. “Like how they handle themselves if the police do come, how they handle themselves with a group of teenage boys, and then how do you handle yourselves as a group of black teenage boys, especially when you got one white friend in there. And the one white friend hasn’t ever experience this before. (My son) and I had a very heart to heart conversation because this is the group of friends he hangs out with all the time, and I’ve said to him before, what are you going to do if something happens? And then he said to me, ‘I saw it tonight. I saw what you meant. I saw how we were all treated differently, how I was treated differently than my friends were treated, and I don’t like how any of this made me feel.’ And I said, ‘Nor should you. It’s not okay.'”
Smedema said the episode is emblematic of some larger issues in the fast-growing suburb.
“There’s just not enough spaces for kids to go, teenagers to go,” she said. “There’s not a lot of other things out here to go. Hence we just had this whole thing with the Boys and Girls Club, and who wants the Boys and Girls Club here and who doesn’t, and it’s basically split. One population of folks out here really want the Boys and Girls Club, the other population of folks does not, and I don’t have to tell you who looks like what.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County is currently in talks to purchase a former church building to open a new youth community center and daycare in Sun Prairie, but some residents have expressed reservations using racially coded language.
Smedema says it may not be racial tension as generational.
“There’s the people who have grown up here and want to live here forever don’t want their town to change, and then there’s all the people since the city has exploded, who have moved in, they’re like yes, let’s build, let’s make it diverse,” she said. “So you have these two sets of people, the ones who have just come, and the ones who have been here forever. I just shake my head at some of the decisions that get made out here. There’s been quite a lot of different things over the years and I just think this Wendy’s thing is just one more piece that goes with all of it.”
Update: After this story was posted Tuesday, the owners responded but their statements contradict police records. For more on the ongoing investigation, read our follow up story here.