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Mount Rushmore mascots hit national TV

The Mount Rushmore mascots make a national television appearance on NBC’s “TODAY” show on Monday in honor of Presidents Day. Three of the four mascots — Tom, Teddy and Abe — appeared at the start of the segment in the New York City studio with hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. The fourth mascot — George — arrived late, but still managed to make his own appearance. (Photo from TODAY show)

South Dakota’s most famous faces celebrated Presidents Day in front of a national audience.

The South Dakota Mount Rushmore mascots made a national television appearance during the fourth hour of NBC’s “TODAY” show on Monday, in honor of the Presidents Day holiday.

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At the start of the segment, three of the four mascots — Tom, Teddy and Abe — appeared in the New York City studio with hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, but the remaining mascot — George — was conspicuously absent.

“Apparently, George Washington is somewhere running down 48th Street,” Gifford said.

In a fashion befitting the nation’s first president, George arrived several minutes later and made a cameo appearance of his own, blaming the traffic for his late appearance by miming hand signals to the hosts. The mascots are not permitted to talk.

South Dakota Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen, who was not in attendance for the appearance, explained George’s lateness in an interview Monday with The Daily Republic.

“We had a little bit of a challenge with the company we used to ship the costumes,” he said.

The Department of Tourism received confi rmation of the mascots’ appearance on Friday, Hagen said, which is short notice given the distance the costumes needed to be shipped.

“Let’s just say they didn’t deliver on time,” he said.

Prior to George’s mistimed arrival, Gifford and Kotb attempted, but failed, to correctly place the mascots’ faces in the order they actually appear on the monument.

Of the two hosts, Gifford is the only one who has been to Mount Rushmore in person. She said during the segment she visited the monument while she was still the co-host of “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.”

“It’s really one of the most fantastic places I’ve ever been in my life,” Gifford said.

Hagen said he and his department were thrilled the mascots were able to make the appearance.

“It’s a great way to put the focus on Presidents Day and it’s a great way to put the focus on South Dakota,” he said.