(Keystone, SD) As the weather warms up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and increased visitation leads into the summer season, staff at Mount Rushmore National Memorial are busy planning for the summer’s biggest patriotic event at the park. The 2009 Independence Day Celebration is scheduled to take place on July 3 with entertainment, patriotic tributes, and educational programs that will lead up to the evening fireworks display.
Planning for this year began the week after the 2008 event. Debriefings and discussions right after the event help staff improve operations, programming, and safety for this year. Based on the results of past events, the planning team will be looking for ways to improve the safety and enjoyment of this year’s event. Changes visitors can expect for this year include an earlier road closure prior to the fireworks display. The South Dakota Highway Patrol and Mount Rushmore Law Enforcement Rangers will be closing the highway at 8:00 p.m. to all incoming traffic. This earlier closure will allow wildland fire crews to prepare the fireworks fallout zone along the highway and help pedestrians navigate the road up to the memorial without the competition of traffic.
For the safety of all visitors, the memorial staff will also be restricting the use of barbecue grills. No visitor grilling will be allowed on memorial property including the parking facility or along Highway 244. This restriction is to maintain the safety of visitors and the park’s natural resources.
Once visitors enter the park and pass through security, rangers will be closely monitoring seating areas and directing visitors to available seats once areas have reached full capacity. Mount Rushmore staff will be monitoring these areas to make sure all entrance and exit walkways are open and clear of obstructions as seating tended to encroach on these walkways in past years.
Superintendent Gerard Baker expects that this year will be another spectacular event. “Independence Day in the United States is such an important time to celebrate our freedom and independence. It is also the time where we remember the soldiers who have fought for this country and those who continue to sacrifice their lives around the world. Our event at Mount Rushmore celebrates the heritage of America and the military personnel who protect us. We are looking forward to hosting one of America’s greatest celebrations.”
General information about the event can be found online at www.nps.gov/moru
. More information will be posted online as the entertainment schedule and other details are confirmed in the months to come.