PIERRE, S.D. — Around 7,500 people were selected to attend South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration on July 3 via lottery system. The event drew up to 125,000 ticket seekers, according to the South Dakota Department of Tourism.
Lottery winners will not have to pay any parking fees. Each ticket includes up to six participants within the vehicle, including the driver or shuttle service to and from the event. Tickets will be randomly assigned into two zones.
"The planning committee continues to work on a great lineup of on-site programming throughout the day on July 3. There will be hoop dancers and Lakota storytellers sharing the state’s Native American culture, performances by the United States Air Force Academy concert band and many other talented people. Additionally, there will be incredible performances and flyovers in partnership with the United States Air Force and South Dakota's own Ellsworth Air Force Base," according to information on the South Dakota Department of Tourism website.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial will be closed to the general public on July 3 and only ticket holders will be allowed on-site that day. Mount Rushmore will reopen to the general public at 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 4.
Only one personal vehicle ticket will be allowed, excluding campers, buses, trailers or any oversized vehicle that cannot fit in a single, standard parking spot.
All vehicles will be subject to security screening. There will be no charge for parking at the Memorial or at the shuttle meeting point for ticket-holders the day of the event.
State Highway 244 will be closed east and west of Mount Rushmore starting at 12:01 a.m. on July 3.
Beginning at Horsethief Lake, Highway 244 west of Mount Rushmore will be closed at 12:01 a.m. MST on July 3 and will remain closed until after the fireworks event and the fire and security sweep are completed. Highway 244 east of Mount Rushmore will be closed at the junction of Highway 16A at 12:01 a.m. MST on July 3 and reopen for ticket holders the day of the event.
State officials are asking attendees to expect multi-hour delays in entering and exiting the park due to traffic congestion.
The event is set to begin at 4 p.m. and wrap up around 10 p.m. The fireworks are expected to begin between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m.
President Donald Trump is expected to attend the event. He was invited to the event by the South Dakota Legislature during the 2020 session.
Gov. Kristi Noem has also been an advocate for bringing fireworks back to the monument, which had not been held since 2009 due to environmental concerns.
An environment assessment by the U.S. Department of Interior cleared the way for the show to carry on. On April 28, the National Parks Service announced the return of the Independence Day celebration in a news release.
“President Trump and I believe that our nation’s founding should be celebrated with the same Pomp and Parade that John Adams described in 1776, and having a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore once again will be an incredible spectacle for the American people to enjoy,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in the release.
“I am grateful to everyone involved in the process to reinstate the tradition of a magnificent fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day,” said Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rob Wallace also stated in the release. “We are eager to move forward in partnership with the state of South Dakota to provide a memorable patriotic experience this summer.”
Fireworks were last seen at Mount Rushmore in 2009 but were discontinued following concerns related to the pine beetle infestation that killed many of the pine trees in the forest.
“A wildland fire response plan has been developed to address potential issues. The National Park Service and fire officials will establish a quick response wildland fire team to respond to any unplanned ignitions,” according to the state tourism website.
While not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the national monument’s drinking water tested high for perchlorates in a USGS 2016 study. Fireworks were determined to be a source of the perchlorates.
“Levels of perchlorate have attenuated over time since fireworks discharges were ceased in 2009. The Environmental Assessment analysis therefore concludes that future fireworks events are likely to have similar effects, with perchlorate levels gradually increasing in surface and groundwater after each event, then decreasing over time,” the state’s tourism website states.
“A monitoring program would be implemented to analyze water and soil samples before and after fireworks, to ensure that any increase in perchlorate, nitrate, thiocyanate, or metals contamination would be detected as early as possible. Additionally, the fireworks contractor would be required to thoroughly remove fireworks debris and unexploded ordnance, which would greatly reduce the introduction of contaminants in environmental media, and would be encouraged to use cleaner, more completely burning fireworks than those used in the past.”