On July 3rd and 4th, over 35,000 people, attended Independence Day activities in the park that featured multicultural activities, patriotism and military salutes.
Highlights included Lakota hoop dancer and storyteller Kevin Locke teaching the crowd dances, songs and signs. Germans from Russia provided dance and cultural connections with area pioneers. Native flutist Sequoia Crosswhite provided music and stories at the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Heritage Village. Junior Rangers joined in programs completing activities and earning badges. For those who were camera ready, photo opportunities abounded including lessons on 3D digital photography presented by park partner CyArk.
Presidential re-enactors representing Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt participated in an in-character press conference providing presidential points of view while answering challenging political questions from the audience. New recruits from several branches of the armed forces were sworn in during a ceremony conducted by the Ellsworth Air Force Base Commander Colonel Mark E. Weatherington. On stage during the event was the Missing Man Table with six empty places set representing those POW-MIAs who have not returned, but were there in spirit. The United States Air Force Heartland of America Band the Brass in Blue provided music offering a rousing rendition of patriotic music and performing the national anthem during the evening lighting ceremony.
Active duty military were provided the opportunity to sign up for the new Annual America the Beautiful Military Pass. Visitors could express their respect and appreciation to members of the armed forces via postcards. Thank you postcards written by 466 visitors will be mailed by Custer VFW Post 3442 to deployed service members as well as wounded warriors.