PIERRE, S.D. — President Joe Biden could see his face join the four presidents on Mount Rushmore — in miniaturized style — if his administration allows July Fourth fireworks at the Black Hills presidential memorial.
And if he shows up.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told reporters on Thursday, Feb. 25, that she is calling upon Biden's Interior secretary nominee to honor a contract the state made with federal officials for an Independence Day fireworks celebration in 2020 and 2021 above western South Dakota's famous presidential sculpture.
Noem, who famously gifted former President Donald Trump a replica bust of Mount Rushmore with his face added, said she would consider doing the same for Biden.
"On a Rushmore bust?" asked Noem, responding to a question from Forum News Service. "I don't know. We'll see if he comes. If he comes, we can make that happen if he so desires."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request to confirm whether Biden will be attending a fireworks show in the Black Hills, should the Mount Rushmore festivities proceed as planned.
The hosting of a Mount Rushmore fireworks celebration has become a political scuttlebutt between administrations. Under the Obama administration, the National Park Service in 2009 ended the annual pyrotechnics show citing growing concern for wildfires in the forested Black Hills.
But the Trump administration reignited the fireworks last summer, with the then-president pushing aside environmental concerns, asking "what can burn? It's stone. You know, it's stone."
At the invitation of Noem, Trump paid a visit to western South Dakota, delivering what many called a campaign speech. As Trump proposed a park for "American heroes" and warned of "new far-left fascism," many protesters, including Lakota nonprofit leader Nick Tilsen, were arrested for blocking a roadway. Tilsen faces up to 17 years in prison, according to the Rapid City Journal.
A lightweight pressure campaign to hold the fireworks again has emerged by some Republicans in Congress in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the Biden administration's nominee to lead interior — Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. — faced questioning from Sen. Roger Marshall. The Kansas Republican told Haaland, "I hope you can continue that tradition" of the Mount Rushmore fireworks.
Haaland, who, if confirmed, would be the first Native American to lead the sprawling and old federal agency, responded that she'd "never been to Mount Rushmore." Once the pandemic subsides, she'd "appreciate" traveling to the area, she said.
On Thursday, Noem was asked about this summer's plans, noting the state signed a contract with the federal government.
"All we really need is for the secretary of Interior — if she is confirmed — to honor those agreements," Noem said. "We're just hopeful that they'll continue through with that and not pull the rug out from under us much like they did with the Keystone pipeline."
Noem has also sent letters to the South Dakota congressional delegation soliciting their assistance in returning fireworks to the Black Hills, according to reporting from CNN. Earlier this week, Rep. Dusty Johnson tweeted to Biden, "Can't wait to have you" at the fireworks.
Financial records disclosed at the end of Trump's presidency revealed he'd received a bust of Rushmore with his face joining the other presidents from Noem. The gift was valued at $1,100.