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Mount Rushmore fireworks denial allows for more visitors to monument

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT
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KEYSTONE, S.D. (KOTA) - Not even a year after Mount Rushmore’s 2020 July 3 firework display, the controversy around this summer’s canceled event is in the spotlight.

Mount Rushmore, still covered with snow, is already caught in the crossfire of controversy for a 2021 Fourth of July fireworks display. Last summer was the first time in more than a decade that the national monument had fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.

After much controversy about whether the display was safe, the National Parks Service denied the state ability to shoot off fireworks for the summer of 2021.

South Dakota’s ranking senator disagrees with the decision to cancel this year’s display.

“I can think of no better place to celebrate our nation’s independence than Mount Rushmore, which is why I disagree with the Biden administration’s recent decision to deny the state’s request for a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore this year,” Sen. John Thune said. “I will continue urging the Biden administration to reconsider this decision.”

Fireworks or not, crowd sizes are predicted to remain relatively the same as years without a firework show.

“I don’t think not having the fireworks at Mount Rushmore will make a lot of difference in the traffic that we see this Fourth of July,” Michelle Thomson, president of the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism. “The Fourth of July is a huge event for the Black Hills and Bad Lands area anyway, mostly because of Mount Rushmore and because it’s so patriotic and people really want to be here over the Fourth of July, so we’ll still see a lot of traffic coming to the area for the Fourth.”

Thomson says not having a firework display show on top of Mount Rushmore actually leaves room for many people to enjoy the monument on Independence Day. In a year without the firework display, visitors can go in and out of the monument to participate in different activities versus claiming a seat for the show.

Down the hill from the national landmark is a town that relies on summer tourists.

One local business owner did not see the summer’s crowd size affected by the fireworks and agrees with the decision not to have the display this summer.

“The fireworks maybe last 20 minutes to a half an hour. Well, if you start a fire, that takes 50-70 years to recover,” Bruce Uhrig, owner of The Indians, said. “So, it’s not really worth that and there are a lot of places to see fireworks. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, so I’d just assume they not do it.

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