MOUNT RUSHMORE, S.D. (KELO) — The last time a sitting president visited Mount Rushmore was George W. Bush back in 2002. And after 2009, the fireworks display for the Fourth of July celebration was halted due to environmental concerns. This year, there will be fireworks and a presidential visit.
Residents of Keystone, like Kwinn Neff, are looking forward to the event.
“I think this year everyone is pretty excited because we’ve kind of had a slow summer with COVID-19 so it’s giving us something for our town and our businesses to look forward to,” Neff said.
Business owners in town, like Tim Johnson, are hoping this celebratory event will bring in many tourists to make up for lost revenue during the global pandemic.
“We’re very fortunate to have that kick-off. Reservations are up and it looks like usual whereas Memorial Day weekend would be the kick-off for the season. This year it looks like it’s going to be the July 4th kick-off,” Tim Johnson, owner of Baymont Hotel in Keystone, said.
However, the fireworks display is causing some concern due to the dry weather western KELOLAND has been experiencing in the last few weeks.
Bill Gabbert is a former Fire Management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region. He has been around for four of the Mount Rushmore fireworks displays from 1998 to 2001. In 2000, Gabbert says there were 64 firefighters assigned to the event.
“During the fireworks, we had to keep the firefighters out of, what we called, the fall out zone. Because of unexposed shells and hot burning embers falling down to the ground. Then after the finale, the firefighters could search their designated areas over a 30,000 foot diameter circle and find all of the fires. One of those fires burned several acres and burned into the next day and required a 20 person crew and a helicopter to suppress it,” Gabbert said.
While we won’t know for sure if the fireworks will be happening until the day of, plans are still underway.
South Dakota’s Department of Tourism Secretary, Jim Hagen, says the department has been working for over a year on this event and there are a lot of moving parts.
“Obviously we are excited to have President Trump attending the event so he will be there. We will have some flyovers, so the Blue Angels will be at the memorial with the flyover, the South Dakota Air National Guard. Ellsworth Air Force Base will do a flyover. We have one of the Air Force bands that will be there. Lots of pomp and circumstance to celebrate the day,” Hagen said.
The gates will open at about 3 in the afternoon and the fireworks display will start at dusk, which is around 9 or 9:30 MT. People are urged to wear masks and take proper health precautions.
“I think it’s really going to be an amazing celebration of our country. We are not a perfect union, we know that. We will celebrate our imperfections and our perfections but know that we are always a work in progress so we are looking forward to safely hosting all of the attendees on July 3rd,” Hagen said.
If you did not get a ticket for the July 3rd celebration on Friday, KELOLAND will be live streaming the event for you on KELOLAND.com.