|Friday, Jul 19, 2013|
Honoring those who support the military was the overarching theme of the Mount Rushmore July 3rd and 4th celebrations that included recognition of military families, support groups and the swearing-in of new recruits by Ellsworth Air Force Base Commander, Colonel Kevin Kennedy. In coordination with Operation Gratitude, hundreds of visitors stopped to write post cards of thanks to be sent to active duty troops. With the help of concession partner, Xanterra, a Missing Man Table was set and an Honors Ceremony held during the July 3rd evening program. This ceremony includes a hat, for each branch of service, placed at each table setting representing those military members who were missing. It is a narrated ceremony, full of symbolism. This is the third year that the missing man table has been part of the July 3 program and, although viewed by thousands, it remains a time when you could hear a pin drop in the amphitheater.
Military families and visitors alike also enjoyed opportunities to chat with a president, learn to hoop dance or dance like a bison. Presidential re-enactors portraying George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were onsite and held a press conference inviting the public to ask questions. During the celebration, the presidents also presented interpretive programs, roved the park, and posed for hundreds of photographs.
Jasmine Pickner, Crow Cree Sioux, demonstrated her championship hoop dancing style. Jasmine’s beautiful hoop dancing and gentle encouragement resulted in a large group of enthusiastic beginning hoop dancers following her instruction. For those who wished to enjoy a more reserved event, Sequoia Crosswhite, Lakota, provided flute music and storytelling at the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village. Sequoia’s moving music attracted groups and enriched cultural exchange.
Park Ranger Jeff Wolen from Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument treated visitors to a variety of music from the “Songs for Junior Rangers” CD. Prospective Junior Rangers interacted with the music by wallowing on the ground like bison, squirming through tight spots as spelunkers, and naming the four presidents on a hill in South Dakota. Like the new military recruits, Junior Rangers participated in a special pledge ceremony led by the Superintendent during evening program. They, too, all walked proudly off the stage displaying their special new rank.