TIMELINE: Events that led to the return of fireworks to Mount Rushmore

KELOLAND.com Original

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Independence Day celebrations start early in South Dakota with the return of fireworks at Mount Rushmore National Memorial and a Presidential visit to The Rushmore State. 

KELOLAND News and KELOLAND.com will have team coverage of Friday’s fireworks as well as President Donald Trump’s return to South Dakota.

Review the timeline for what happened ahead of the celebration in this story:


July 2, 2020

Governor Kristi Noem authorized state funding from the Future Fund. The fireworks show, serving as a backdrop for President Trump’s visit, is ultimately paid by businesses in the state. The state agreed to pay the California company no more than $350,000 for the show, which will last 15 to 30 minutes.

A retired superintendent of Mount Rushmore told KELOLAND News Friday’s fireworks show “a terrible idea.” Cheryl Schreier has written an op-ed published this week in the Washington Post saying the event shouldn’t take place because of the threat of wildfires and COVID-19.

In remarks, he gave at the Spirit of America Showcase on Thursday at The White House, President Trump highlighted his trip to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore. He said: “We’re going to have a tremendous evening. It’s going to be a fireworks display like few people have seen. It’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be beautiful.”


July 1, 2020 

U.S. Congressman Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and CNN’s Chris Cuomo have a spirited back-and-forth about the size of the crowd expected for the Mount Rushmore fireworks show.

June 30, 2020 

In an appearance on Fox News on June 29, Noem repeated that social distancing won’t be part of the celebration on Friday.  She says the state plans to give out face masks, but attendees aren’t required to wear them. 

June 29, 2020 

Todd Seaman, an engineer with the South Dakota Department of Transportation in the Rapid City region, tells KELOLAND News to expect “congestion and heavy traffic” for ticket holders coming to Mount Rushmore.

June 28, 2020 

Bill Gabbert, a former Fire Management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region, tells KELOLAND News about past fires created by fireworks.
Keystone resident Kwinn Neff looks forward to an event bringing extra business to Keystone. 

June 25, 2020 

Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit. Many Native American activists say the Rushmore memorial is as reprehensible as the many Confederate monuments being toppled around the nation.

June 23, 2020 

Governor Kristi Noem was in Rapid City discussing the coronavirus pandemic as well as the upcoming fireworks show. She said there’s go or no-go plan for the fireworks display setup by the National Parks Service. 

June 16, 2020 

State officials tell KELOLAND News a total of 25,179 applicants representing 125,787 individuals wanted to see the fireworks and President Donald Trump on July 3 at Mount Rushmore tried to get tickets for the event.

June 4, 2020 

Gov. Kristi Noem and Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, announce a lottery system for the July 3rd fireworks and confirm President Donald Trump’s visit. 

May 1, 2020 

In a podcast interview, President Donald Trump announced his plans to attend the return of fireworks at Mount Rushmore on Friday, July 3rd. 

April 30, 2020 

Staff at Mount Rushmore speak with KELOLAND News about Fourth of July fireworks. 

February 29, 2020 

The environmental study ahead of the Mount Rushmore fireworks was completed. It showed impacts to water, wildlife, tribal relations and the monument itself if fireworks return to Independence Day celebrations in 2020, as planned. 

February 28, 2020 

KELOLAND News reported on the U.S. National Park Service release of 2019 visitor numbers at national parks. In 2019, the number of visitors dipped below the 2 million mark to  1,963,54, the first time it had been under 2 million since 2006. 

January 15, 2020 

President Donald Trump applauded the return of fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2020. He was quoted saying “I said, ‘you mean we can’t have fireworks because of the environment?’ ‘Yeah, environmental reasons.’ I said, ‘What can burn? It’s stone. You know, it’s stone.’ So, nobody knew why, they just said environmental reasons,” Trump said. 

May 8, 2019

Following Gov. Noem’s announcement the day before, President Trump went to social media to celebrate the return of fireworks. 

KELOLAND Investigates looked at the history of the fireworks display from 1998 to 2009. While it seemed a fitting display at one of the most patriotic monuments in the U.S., a federal investigation found it was filling the water around Mt. Rushmore with a toxic chemical. 

May 7, 2019
Gov. Kristi Noem announced fireworks will return to the Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, starting in 2020. 


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