Independence Day Celebration Fireworks Returning to Mount Rushmore

By Eva Fu

Fireworks will be back to illuminate the night sky and the colossal sculptures at Mount Rushmore during next year’s Fourth of July, the governor of South Dakota announced on May 7.

“We are excited and honored to see fireworks return to our nation’s Shrine of Democracy,” Governor Kristi Noem said in a statement. “There is no more fitting place in all the nation to celebrate our democracy than from Mount Rushmore.”

Noem said that the agreement was a result of months of meetings and discussions.

mount rushmore 2005
Visitors watch while workers pressure wash the granite faces of George Washington (L), Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota on July 21, 2005. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which sees over 2 million visitors a year, has discontinued fireworks for nearly a decade due to concerns of wildfires in the Black Hills Forests surrounding the memorial. The issue had been made worse in the combination of the declining health of the trees and pine beetle outbreaks.

The forest has since recovered after the epidemic affected at least 450,000 acres of woods—over a third of the 1.2 million acres of forest area. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 black forest hills rushmore
The forest area affected by the pine beetle outbreak from 1996 to 2017. (U.S. Forest Service)

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and the governor jointly signed the memorandum of agreement (pdf) on Monday.

“I look forward to working with the State of South Dakota to restore a fireworks display at one of our nation’s great Memorials, which tells the story of the birth, growth, development, and preservation of this great country,” said Bernhardt.

The officials said that the firework shows hold symbolic significance to Mount Rushmore as a decades-long tradition to honor the founding fathers at the place where their faces are memorialized in the monumental carvings. It is also “an iconic backdrop for the enjoyment and education of a diverse local, national and international audience,” the memorandum states.

mount rushmore fireworks
Fireworks over Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, SD on July 3, 2004, in celebration of Independence Day. (Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images)

“When the fireworks were previously held at Mount Rushmore, the show was beamed around the globe via satellite. The entire world was able to view a celebration of our nation’s freedoms from the majestic memorial and the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota,” Noem said.

President Trump also commended Noem and Bernhardt for bringing back the firework display on twitter.

“I am pleased to inform you that THE BIG FIREWORKS, after many years of not having any, are coming back to beautiful Mount Rushmore in South Dakota,” he wrote.

There is a long history of celebrations of American independence at Mount Rushmore, including fireworks displays from 1998 to 2009.

The fireworks show will take place on July 3, 4, or 5, according to the memorandum.