Fewer visitors, closer quarters than a typical July 3 at Mount Rushmore

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FILE – This March 22, 2019, file photo shows Mount Rushmore in Keystone, S.D. Organizers have scrapped plans to mandate social distancing during President Donald Trump’s appearance at a July 3, 2020, Mount Rushmore fireworks display and won’t limit the crowd due to coronavirus concerns, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday, June 4, 2020. The Republican governor said the National Park Service is dolling out 7,500 tickets via lottery for the event, which marks the first time in a decade that fireworks will be set off at the memorial in recognition of Independence Day. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

MOUNT RUSHMORE, S.D. (KELO) — The 7,500 people who are expected to visit Mount Rushmore on July 3 would be less than the number of visitors there on a typical July 3 or July 4, according to daily data posted by the National Park Service.

The national memorial had 29,470 visitors on July 4, 2019, and 20,706 on July 3. The biggest day in July was and 32,429 on July 5. The memorial had 28,287 on July 3, 2018 and 29,492 on July 4, 2018.

Tickets have been sold for the fireworks event and only the expected 7,500 ticket holders will allowed to enter the memorial on July 3. The memorial is closed to the general public that day.

The expected crowd for this July 3 will be at the memorial longer than most visitors in a typical busy day, according to summer 2013 research completed by the College of Natural Resources University of Idaho for the NPS.

The average length of visit was 2.6 hours each day, according to the University of Idaho study. 15 percent of visitor groups visited the memorial on more than one day, of which 90% visited on
two days. Of those, the average number of days visited was 2.1.

The physical space between visitors will be different from a typical day at the memorial.

The July 3 fireworks and expected visit by President Donald Trump are slated to last at least six hours, according to the schedule from the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

“Attendees will be in close contact for an extended period of time,” a copy of a Zone 1 ticket said. Visitors may also be subject to a health screening because of the physical proximity of groups, according to the ticket copy. The health screenings are also dependent on health directives that day.

Mount Rushmore will open at 3 p.m. MST for ticket holders in Zone 1 on July 3, according to a copy of a Zone 1 ticket. The program is slated to start at 4 p.m. MST with fireworks set for between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. MST, according to the state department of tourism.

The site’s amphitheater will provide seating for at least some of the 7,500 ticket holders.

The memorial has an evening light show in the amphitheater which draws about 2,000 visitors each night, according to the 2018 annual report from the Mount Rushmore Society. The lighting ceremony starts on June 1 and continues to Sept. 30. There is no ceremony from Oct. 1 through late May.

The memorial is 1,278.45 acres but not all those acres are accessible. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the hours and opening of some of the facilities, during a typical year, visitors can stop at the information center, Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center and the Sculptor’s Studio. The Presidential Trail .6 miles long or walk on the Nature Trail. Those are just some options in the memorial.

Although the nation is in the midst of a pandemic, the memorial has been drawing visitors this month.

The park had 118,991 recreation visitors in May. The 118,991 divided by 31 days in May is about 3,838 visitors per day.

The memorial had 8,759 on May 30 and 9,565 on May 31 which are both less than last year. The 14,482 visitors on May 24 more than in 2019, according to the NPS.

The memorial had 1,963,540 visitors in 2019, according to the NPS, which was fewer than in 2018. Mount Rushmore’s grounds is open 365 days a year except the buildings are closed on Christmas Day, according to the NPS. That equals about 5,379 visitors per day in a 365 day count.

June, July and August are the the busiest months at the memorial followed by less busy months of May, September and October, according to the NPS.

The memorial drew 379, 108 visitors in June 2019. There were 522,324 visitors in July 2019 and 414,171 in August 2019.

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