PIERRE, S.D. — Word that the Biden administration had cancelled fireworks this Independence Day at South Dakota's most famous granite sculpture went off like a firecracker from the state's biggest politicians.
From Washington D.C., Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, as well as Rep. Dusty Johnson, issued a statement blasting the Democratic president's administration for the abrupt change in plans, saying, "Last year, millions watched the celebration in awe, and it's a shame the administration is denying Americans that opportunity this year."
On Monday a spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told Fox News to "rest assured, there will be plenty more from Gov. Noem on this topic in the very near future."
But closer to the mountain-in-question, reaction has been less explosive.
No pyrotechnics over stone faces at Rushmore this year won't dampen one Keystone, S.D., campground owner's plans. He said the traffic congestion actually clogged much of the town last year, and he rents out his cabins, RV sites, and pop-up camper spots, regardless.
"They all seemed to get booked up every year -- fireworks or not," said Tom Morris, owner of Kemp's Kamp on Wednesday, March 17. "In some ways, it's better to keep the congestion down and let them (campers) enjoy more of their vacation."
Up the road in rural Rockerville, S.D., sculptor and former wildlife biologist Peg Detmers said she welcomed the National Park Service putting the kibosh on the explosive party that she says threatens the ponderosa forest.
"Last year, the park administration said it was not wise, and they were overruled by politics," said Detmers of the July 3 event last year that featured then-President Donald Trump. "I'm glad that we know we have in place an administration that listens to scientists."
State officials say the return of fireworks last July at Rushmore, which had been sidelined over a decade prior by officials in the Obama Administration due to wildland fire concerns in the heavily-forested Black Hills, brought in an extra $160,000 in tax revenue for the tourism-dependent region during amid a pandemic. They also tout $22 million in "global media coverage of the event."
The state's epidemiologist, Joshua Clayton, even reported no contact tracing investigations reported to the health department stemming from the fireworks show and speech by Trump.
Nevertheless, a new administration brings new priorities.
Herbert Frost, regional director for the National Park Service, told Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen last week that potential "risks to the park itself and to the health and safety of employees and visitors associated with the fireworks demonstration continue to be a concern and are still being evaluated as a result of the 2020 event."
He added the park's "many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks" at Rushmore.
Prior to last year's event, National Guard members clashed with protesters, including Lakota activist Nick Tilsen, who now is facing potential prison time from the encounter.
Certainly many in town will miss the fireworks. Michelle Thompson, president of Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association, wrote a letter to the federal delegation last month, calling on them to support returning the event to Rushmore this year.
"It was fantastic to bring the fireworks back and have the president here and get all the coverage that we did," Thompson said.
But she noted that, when there's not a presidential visit, more visitors can move in-and-out of Rushmore, whereas last year many needed to stay all day due to security reasons.
Clay King, general manager of National Presidential Wax Museum in Keystone, S.D., said his business saw a boost as fireworks-watchers gathered on his property, which includes a wine bar, coffee shop, and mini golf course, for a view of Rushmore's festivities last year.
"It became very apparent it was more akin to a Trump rally than what you'd experience any given year," said King, noting that "about 80-to-90 percent" of attendees wore Trump-affiliated hats and shirts. "I don't think that last year's fireworks could be considered typical for an annual fireworks display."
According to tourism department numbers, roughly two-thirds of attendees came from outside South Dakota. Echoing King and Thompson, other Keystone business owners think the best place to be on July 4th is the Black Hills, whether there's a massive lights show over Lincoln's head or not.
"If they want fireworks, there are like two or three fireworks displays in Rapid City," said Morris, who noted his campground is already filled up for the summer.