There is no better place to celebrate America’s birthday than Mount Rushmore, surrounded by the beautiful Black Hills and in the presence of four iconic American leaders. Last year, we brought fireworks back to Mount Rushmore for the first time in more than a decade. The celebration was a tremendous opportunity to showcase our state to the world, and I am committed to continuing the celebration this year.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m talking about the Fourth of July when it’s still cold outside. This week in the United States Senate, there was a confirmation hearing for Rep. Deb Haaland, who is President Biden’s pick to be the new Secretary of the Interior. The Department of the Interior has oversight over our national parks, including Mount Rushmore, so if Rep. Haaland is confirmed as secretary, she would have oversight over our fireworks celebration as well.
During the hearing, Senator Roger Marshall, a former colleague of mine, asked Rep. Haaland whether she would join us for the Mount Rushmore Fireworks. Her response was promising. She said that she’d “never been to Mount Rushmore,” but implied that she’d like to “if the pandemic is over.” I have the same hope that she does: that the pandemic is old news by July. And I’m glad that COVID hospitalizations have fallen off their peak by about 85% in South Dakota.
We are moving forward with planning a fireworks celebration. We signed the agreements with the Department of the Interior for the 2021 celebration on the same day as the 2020 celebration – we just need the Biden administration to honor those agreements.
This event is a huge deal for our state. Last year’s celebration carried an advertising value of more than $22 million, and Google searches for “Mount Rushmore” reached an all-time high – more than 12 times higher than the previous record. This attention to our state will be an economic boon for years to come, as families choose South Dakota as their road trip destination.
I know that some suggest that this event poses safety risks to the park and the surrounding Hills, and I take these concerns very seriously. South Dakota takes great pride in our care for our natural resources. When weather conditions have not been favorable to the fireworks celebration in the past, we have refrained from holding the event. And we will continue to manage these celebrations responsibly moving forward.
I’ve also asked Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, and Congressman Johnson to help me advocate to the Biden administration on behalf of our Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration. Together, I’m confident that we can make it happen. And if President Biden wants to join us, we’d be glad to have him.
Again, there’s no better place to celebrate America’s birthday. Washington won our Independence – a fight that was driven by Jefferson’s ringing call to freedom: “all men are created equal.” Lincoln secured that freedom for the oppressed. And Teddy Roosevelt guaranteed the sustainability of the West so that future generations could enjoy it. These men embody so much of what makes America great. I look forward to once again celebrating our Independence Day in the presence of four such iconic leaders.