BLACK HILLS, SD, July 4, 2013 — Set high atop the remote Black Hills of South Dakota, iconic Mount Rushmore draws three million American patriots and overseas visitors a year to gaze at the stirring statement in stone described as America’s “Shrine of Democracy.”
This year’s two-day Independence Day holiday celebration, July 3-4, features four professional re-enactors dressed in the attire of the monument’s four American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The presidents will be accessible to visitors as they deliver programs, sign autographs and pose for pictures with visitors for their cameras.
A highlight throughout this summer again is the Evening Lighting Ceremony held in the memorial’s outdoor amphitheater that focuses on the accomplishments of its four celebrated presidents, American patriotism today and the historic development of our nation.
The 45-minute program kicks off with a ranger talk followed by a film: “America’s Lasting Legacy” and culminates with the illumination of the monument itself.
The National Park monument is located near the geographic center of the continental United States and is the world’s most colossal sculpture. Its four presidential faces, each as tall as a six storied building, took 400 workers more than 14 years (1927-1941) to build by blasting away nearly half a million tons of stone. Its cost: a mere $1 million. Its primary sculpting tools: dynamite and jackhammer.
Mt. Rushmore, the mammoth tribute to America’s ideals, was the culmination of a dream by one Gutzon Borglum, himself the son of Danish immigrants. After much searching for the monument’s home, he chose one of the grandest granite outcroppings in the world: a perpendicular slab facing southeast that catches the sunlight all day long.
And he chose as his subjects four of the nation’s most revered presidents to symbolize the birth and growth of America: Washington for the Nation’s Birth as its first president; Jefferson for Expansion through the Louisiana Purchase; Theodore Roosevelt for Development of The National Park System and building of the Panama Canal; and Lincoln for Preservation of the Union following the Civil War.
An “Insider’s Day” at Mount Rushmore
1. Ranger-led Programs (30 minutes): Join a park ranger for an interpretive talk or guided walk. Learn about the history of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills. Free.
2. Sculptor’s Studio Talk (15 minutes): Learn about the tools and techniques used to carve the mountain sculpture, through recorded stories of the workers themselves. See demonstrations of their tools and Borglum’s working model. Free.
3. Rent the Mount Rushmore Audio Tour: Using a lightweight handheld wand, take a self-guided tour while sitting down in a pleasant spot. Visitors can walk around the park or follow the suggested route shown on a map provided. The recorded guide runs two hours and incorporates narration, music, interviews, sound effects, and historic recordings of Gutzom Borglum and his family, as well as workers and members of the American Lakota Tribe. There is a $5 individual rental fee, but a reduced rate for families.
4. Junior Ranger and Rushmore Ranger Programs (30-60 minutes): There are self-guided treks for youngsters (accompanied by adult family members) ages three and up. Upon completion, young participants will receive a badge. Activity booklets are available at all information desks. Free. Junior Ranger patches available for purchase at Mt. Rushmore bookstores.
5. Presidential Trail. (20-40 minutes): A half-mile loop gives a closer look at the mountain carving and the natural beauty surrounding it. The train begins and ends at Grand View Terrace. Not accessible for everyone as there are 400 stairs to encounter twice during trek. Free.
6. Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village (10-30 minutes): Explore the history of the American Indian tribes who have populated the territory for thousands of years to learn about their customs and traditions. Enter a tipi (teepee), stroke hides of buffalo and other indigenous wildlife. Free.
Around Mount Rushmore
Experience Xanterra’s 130 years of park and resort hospitality in pristine and historical environments. Carvers Café features local bison burgers, a favorite for visitors. And the Memorial Team Ice Cream Shop is legendary.
Visitors with disabilities are especially well attended to. Wheel chairs on site are available for free on loan on a first-come, first serve basis. Elevators connect Grand View Terrace to the Visitor Center and Amphitheater. Carvers Café and Gift shops are wheelchair accessible too.
The National Monument is open to visitors year round except for Christmas Day. The heart of the annual tourist season runs from May 12 through September 30.
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