South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is not taking no for an answer after the Biden administration turned down the state’s request to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore again this year.
In a letter to South Dakota’s chief tourism official, Regional Director Herbert Frost denied the state’s request, citing the receding COVID-19 pandemic, political correctness, and environmental concerns.
“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,” Frost noted. “In addition, the park’s many tribal partners expressly oppose fireworks at the Memorial.
“These factors, compiled with the COVID-19 pandemic, do not allow a safe and responsible fireworks display to be held at this site,” Frost claimed.
Last year saw the a fireworks display at the National Monument for the first time since 2009 when the Obama administration halted them out of alleged concerns about wildfire risks, The Blaze reported. Then-President Donald Trump and Noem attended the 2020 event, which became a political rally that Democrats criticized and speculated would become a “super-spreader” event.
Noem, who was one of a handful of governors who did not shut down her state during the pandemic, pushed back in the weeks following the event, saying that there were no COVID outbreaks.
And now, she’s pushing back again.
“The best place to celebrate America’s birthday is Mount Rushmore,” she wrote on Twitter.
The best place to celebrate America's birthday is Mount Rushmore. pic.twitter.com/LZFsglDQmJ
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) March 12, 2021
In an email to The Hill, Noem spokesman Ian Fury said the governor “is going to do everything in her ability to ensure that we can celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks at Mount Rushmore.”
Fury referenced President Joe Biden’s statement during his first national address on Thursday in which he said there is a “good chance” by July 4 that Americans could gather with family and friends due to the widening coronavirus vaccination.
“The best place in America to hold such a special celebration would be Mount Rushmore, fireworks included,” he said, echoing his boss.
Nevertheless, in his letter, Frost said that while some progress had been made in terms of the pandemic, the situation remains “dynamic” while adding it is “only prudent to make plans based on the best available science and public health guidance available today.”
Frost also said that large gatherings of the kind that took place at the monument last year during Trump’s event would be “difficult, if not impossible.”
The crowd that attended the fireworks show in 2020 did not socially distance and most did not wear masks. Neither was mandated by the state at the time.
As for the event itself, the Democratic Party tried to turn the uniquely American celebration into something ugly by falsely claiming that Trump was “holding a rally glorifying white supremacy at Mount Rushmore — a region once sacred to tribal communities.”
Native American leaders, particularly those with the Sioux tribe, have called for the destruction of the monument which portrays the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Last year, Noem responded to that proposal thusly: “Not on my watch.”
There is a similar carving of the face of the great Sioux chief Crazy Horse on a mountainside nearby.