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National Park Service Comes Back to Its Senses, Waves Off Noem’s Rushmore Fireworks Plea

Hey, look what happens when you don’t have a megalomaniac in charge of the federal government—the National Park Service makes decisions based on evidence and the common good:

The National Park Service (NPS) has denied a request from the state of South Dakota to hold a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate the Fourth of July this year.

NPS Regional Director Herbert Frost wrote in a letter to the head of the state’s tourism department that NPS is “unable to grant a request to have fireworks at the Memorial.”

“Potential risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event,” Frost wrote. “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial.”

“These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site,” he added [Rachel Frazin, “National Park Service Rejects Request for July 4 Fireworks at Mount Rushmore,” The Hill, 2021.03.12].

Now, sure, the Black Hills National Forest didn’t burn down after last year’s Trump/Noem hatefest at the monument, but using last year’s event as a reason to risk mass conflagration again is like Jason Ravnsborg saying, “Heck, I drove up to Redfield with my eyes glued to my phone and didn’t kill anyone, so nothing bad will happen if I drive distracted all the way home to Pierre.”

But we love our bang-bangs, so our Congressional delegation is already whining, attacking the decision with an incorrect reading of President Joe Biden’s speech to the nation Thursday:

Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds along with Representative Dusty Johnson are also commenting on the cancellation, issuing a joint statement that reads:

“Let’s be clear, this decision is political, not evidence-based, President Biden just said himself that Americans can safely gather by July 4 – What’s changed in a day? Last year millions watched the celebration in awe, and it’s a shame the administration is denying Americans that opportunity this year” [Kevin Gonzalez, “Fireworks Not Allowed at Mount Rushmore for 4th of July,” KSFY-TV, 2021.03.12].

John, Mike, Dusty, shame on you—in his national address Thursday, President Biden did not say we can safely hold a giant fireworks shindig at Mount Rushmore on July 4. He actually said the opposite:

I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.

Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together [President Joe Biden, speech to the nation, White House transcript, 2021.03.11].

President Biden set a goal of mass vaccination to make small Fourth of July family gatherings reasonably safe. And even that modest goal depends on working together and remaining pre-cautious:

After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.

But to get there, we can’t let our guard down.

This fight is far from order — from over. As I told the woman in Pennsylvania, “I will tell you the truth.”

A July 4th with your loved ones is the goal. But a goal — a lot can happen; conditions can change.

The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread.

And we’ve got work to do to ensure everyone has confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines.

So my message to you is this: Listen to Dr. Fauci, one of the most distinguished and trusted voices in the world. He has assured us the vaccines are safe. They underwent rigorous scientific review. I know they’re safe. Vice President Harris and I know they’re safe. That’s why we got the vaccine publicly in front of cameras so — for the world to see, so you could see us do it. The First Lady and the Second Gentleman also got vaccinated.

Talk to your family, your friends, your neighbors — the people you know best who’ve gotten the vaccine.

We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing the masks as recommended by the CDC.

Because even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity [President Biden, 2021.03.11].

John, Mike, Dusty, if you’re going to try using the President’s words against him, you need to start by using the President’s actual words.

Mass gatherings for the Fourth of July are still a bad idea. Lighting fires and toxic explosives in the Black Hills National Forest in July is still a bad idea. Besides, who wants to spend America’s best holiday standing in line for hours, being searched by the Secret Service, buying overpriced concessions, and listening to another boring speech from Kristi Noem? Instead of making the Fourth of July a political cult-of-personality fest, celebrate America by doing your patriotic duty, getting your shots, getting your family and friends to all get their shots, and then getting together in your backyard for hot dogs and sparklers.


  1. Donald Pay 2021-03-14 10:06

    Back when I lived in Rapid City there was almost no fire district or city or county government in the Black Hills area that approved of any fireworks at all. They lobbied hard to shut down the Mt. Rushmore fireworks. After the insanity of last year’s event, it is nice to know that the adults are back in charge.

  2. Nix 2021-03-14 11:25

    John, Mike and Dusty,
    Let’s be clear.
    You don’t give a Rats ass if Mt. Rushmore is on Native land.
    You don’t have a problem rubbing the 4 faces into the Lakota open wounds.
    Fireworks on that property is an insult to the people that actually own the land. Show a little respect.

  3. Ron 2021-03-14 11:34

    I am just thankful President Biden is giving us his blessing to gather in our backyards. Thank you Mr. President.

  4. Eve Fisher 2021-03-14 11:50

    My husband and I went to Mount Rushmore for the 4th of July back in 2002, and even then every time the fireworks went off, little wildfires sparked up all around the mountain. Besides everything else, it’s a freaking fire hazard, especially after the dry years we’ve been having.

  5. cibvet 2021-03-14 12:13

    Veterans fight and die everyday for this country and yet these self identified patriots won’t wash their hands or wear a mask to help save their fellow man. They carry a bastardized flag of trump, mumble their way thru the Pledge of Allegiance and cry they want their country back. Try being a good citizen, then I’ll discuss it with you.

  6. grudznick 2021-03-14 12:31

    Sparklers are boring, and you people just hate America. grudznick could do without Mr. Trump at the Shrine of Democracy, but golly a few harmless fireworks won’t hurt anybody (unless the out-of-state protestors turn violent,)

  7. Loren 2021-03-14 13:28

    To be clear, another fireworks extravaganza would NOT be to honor/celebrate our country. It would be used to enhance the national exposure of our darling governor. I’d have to imagine the 3 named suspects mentioned would also be present for a speech. John could stand tall behind Kristi for the photo op. That’s his forte. Mikey could stand there with a -eatin’ grin, because that’s what he does best. And Dusty could do whatever it is Dusty does. Sure, let’s have a party for these 4 – (ahem) – “leaders,” paid for with tax payer dollars. These are “conservatives,” right? Party down!

  8. W R Old Guy 2021-03-14 13:48

    Grudz, I heartily disagree. I spent over 20 years in the fire service in the Black Hills. We held our breath when the fireworks were used at Mt. Rushmore. A wildland fire during drought conditions could be catastrophic .

    We evacuated Keystone in 1988 during the Galena Fire. It was difficult due to the number of tourists there in August. Keystone and the surrounding areas are packed with people (IE Iron Mountain Road). Wildland fires can move with amazing speed. Add a panicked crowd unfamiliar with the area will make it difficult for evacuation and for firefighters to access the area.

    The Black Hills Fire Protection District prohibits fireworks in the Hills. It has been a law for years and it’s politicians that choose to ignore the law for their own personal agenda. Stick with a Patriotic program in the amphitheater complete with an awesome light show.

  9. Donald Pay 2021-03-14 14:08

    Here’s what I think, Grudz. I think sane people have about had it with people who want to take away people’s rights to vote saying the sane people “hate America.” America happens to be all the people you Republicans hate, which includes the following: “libbies” (your word), blacks, Indians, chinese people and anyone who look vaguely like chinese, anyone born in or with ancestors born in Latin America and the Caribbean, except some Cubans, LGBTQ folks, Muslims (except the oligarchs), Jews (except Republican donors), socialists (though you don’t know what that means), capitalists (except Republican donors), environmentalists, workers, etc., etc. The base of your party did a pretty good job on January 6 showing us what “hating America” is all about. I realize you didn’t particular like Trump, so there is some hope for you, but you might want to go to work on culling the nutcases out of your own party who hate America. You do that, and the Republican Party will be a shell that includes Grudz and a couple other people.

    Now, putting aside the pretty glaring fact that it was “carved” by a Ku Klux Klan member on stolen land, the so-called “Shrine of Democracy” is a national monument surrounded by National Forest. All of this is public (federal) land now, though it all should be given back to the tribes. Because it is federal land, I, just as much as you, have a say in how that land is manage. And, really, if we want a “Shrine of Democracy,” it might be a grand idea to finally rise up and promote and protect the right of everyone to vote, rather than have your party trying to limit that right to rich white men.

    Instead of fireworks, how about a nice, safely controlled campfire with family all gathered around eating S’Mores. Now that’s a good 4th of July, that doesn’t depend on government money for a huge fireworks display.

  10. Richard Schriever 2021-03-14 15:12

    Would grudz find thrill (vs. boredom) should a neighbor acquire a howitzer and deem it appropriate to fire it off when they felt occasion to “celebrate” their free dumb?

  11. Mark Anderson 2021-03-14 17:53

    Come on grudz, I don’t even hate you. I would love having a beer with you and messing with your mind. A game of pool would be good, although I would have to play left handed.

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-03-14 18:19

    Don, the sculptor of the mountain wasn’t bad, a few stolen ideas from Rodin and big bucks and the times just seemed like blowing up a mountain was a good idea. You know he had a great young sculptor working for him who left after he had him do nothing but pose on a horse. That sculptor then went to France and studied with Brancusi and made a great name for himself. His name was Noguchi and he had am amazing career. So it goes.

  13. M 2021-03-14 20:24

    Maybe the powers that be should have their fireworks over Lake Sharpe in Pierre!!!!

  14. Cathy 2021-03-14 20:26

    The Roaming Noem can use some of her donations to host a fireworks display on her family farm..

  15. John 2021-03-14 22:31

    Mr. Grudz:, as a 45 year veteran of the biological sciences, research and management and more than a few hours doing fire suppression duty, water quality monitoring for NPS, SoundScape measurements for NPS to better define the policy and a private citizen that began visiting Mt. Rushmore with parents and grandparents beginning in the early 1950’s, I can say with all sincerity that what republican politics has done to the Shrine to Democracy is a disgrace. We’re tired of the failure to acknowledge the ecological, biological, environmental and historical background of the monument and its significance to at least two different cultures in South Dakota. The ability to pour thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time into suppressing fire in the Monument and the adjacent forest is not a justification for the display of Chinese pyrotechnics. Ignoring the obvious damage and pollution to surface and ground water from several years of celebratory grandstanding with fireworks ignores the effects on domestic water in Keystone and eventually all Black Hills Communities as well as hastens the decay of the national shrine and increases the costs to future generations to clean up our mess. The National Park Service has a well researched and long standing policy that regulates “noise” in these otherwise aesthetically pleasant open spaces. Aerial bombardment is an open and blatant castration of that policy. Mt Rushmore has far exceeded its visitor carrying capacity in consideration of it’s ability to keep pace with human wear and tear. As a matter of fact, the Black Hills in general has too. Frankly, most of us are fed up with the current conservative agenda that turns a sacred area and historical icon into political squalor and cheap, meaningless celebration. One of those men, enshrined on the Mountain, Theodore Roosevelt, our only “conservation president” would have more that a few unkind words to say to Barnyard Barbie about befouling natural landscapes with noise and environmental contaminants.

  16. leslie 2021-03-15 10:41

    I’m w/u Nix.

    There is no soil up there. Explosive waste goes straight into the drinking water which Trump’s Interior fool Zinkey, besides being a criminal on a horse, stripped those specific water quality regs away just in time for Noem’s Trump roast on the 3rd, 2020. Just 90 days before SHE stripped CDC requirements from the Sx Falls meatpacker hot spot. Days earlier CDC effectively regulated the Greeley packing plant hot spot.

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