Noem pushes congressional reps to advocate for Mt. Rushmore fireworks

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem sent letters to South Dakota Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, as well as Rep. Dusty Johnson on Monday, pushing them to advocate for a continuation of the Mount Rushmore Fourth of July fireworks celebration. The fireworks shows began in 1998, and ran every year, except for 2002, until their last show in 2009.

On July 3, 2020, Mount Rushmore held its first fireworks celebration in a decade, bringing in more than $22 million in advertising value. As of July 9, 2020, the tourism department estimated visitors spent about two million dollars during their stay, which translated to $160,000 in immediate tax revenues for both state and local governments.

Web traffic to pages about South Dakota pages skyrocketed. Google searches for “Mount Rushmore” reached an all-time high, 1,250% higher than the previous record, which was over July Fourth in 2005. And the tourism department’s web traffic increased by 872% over the holiday weekend, compared to 2019. That’s the equivalent of $95,000 worth of paid promotion.

After all expenses have been added up – security, transportation, pyrotechnics, etc. – the state figures it spent $1.5 million on the event.

Critics say that the event presents safety risks to the park and surrounding areas. The National Park Service cancelled the annual fireworks display for 2010 after a pine beetle infestation devastated the area’s ponderosa pines and created an extreme fire danger.

Noem asked the legislators to communicate the importance of the event to federal government staff, writing:

“I am respectfully asking for your assistance in communicating the importance of this celebration throughout the confirmation process for the incoming Secretary of the Interior and in conversations with senior staff at the department. I ask that you encourage your colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources committee to publicly question the secretary-elect’s regulatory proposals for our national parks and expose the heavy-handed approach we expect to see.”

The full text of the governors letter can be found here.

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News