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Report: 2020 Mount Rushmore fireworks show cost $3.9 million; South Dakota footed $1.1 million

Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore after a decade hiatus in July of 2020. (file)
Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore after a decade hiatus in July of 2020. (file)(South Dakota Dept. of Tourism)
Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A new federal analysis found the 2020 fireworks show at Mount Rushmore cost taxpayers just under $4 million, with South Dakota picking up the tab for a little over a quarter of the cost.

The Government Accountability Office released a report this week outlining cost estimates for a number of major 4th of July fireworks shows across the country in 2020. Of the four events analyzed, the Mount Rushmore show was the costliest at $3,917,289.

According to the report, the federal government covered the lion’s share of the costs, most of which was ultimately paid for by the National Park Service. The State of South Dakota’s portion of the bill was $1,120,315.

Fireworks returned to Mount Rushmore in 2020 after a decade-long hiatus due to dry conditions caused by a Pine Beetle infestation. Former President Donald Trump attended the event with much fanfare, joined by Gov. Kristi Noem. At the time, critics voiced concerns over holding a large gathering amid a pandemic.

The National Park Service denied permission for the state to hold another fireworks show at Mount Rushmore in 2021, citing environmental concerns and opposition from tribes. Noem filed a lawsuit and waged a months-long war of words with the Biden administration over the decision, but has thus far been unsuccessful in returning fireworks to the national memorial.

GAO report

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is a watchdog agency that provides auditing and investigative services for Congress. It conducted the analysis at the request of three congressmen - Sen. Patrick Leahy (D, Vt.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D, Md.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D, Ore.) - who asked the agency to look into the cost of the events, including any COVID-19 mitigation costs.

Three other 4th of July events, all taking place in Washington, D.C., were analyzed in the report. “A Capitol Fourth Concert” came with a federal price tag of $3.8 million; “Independence Day fireworks” cost $2.5 million; and “Salute to America” cost $1.6 million.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism previously said the Mount Rushmore fireworks show cost the state $1.5 million. The reason for the discrepancy between the state’s report and the GAO analysis is unclear, though the GAO report does say the National Park Service reimbursed the state for $470,000 of its costs.

Chart from GAO report breaking down costs of the 2020 fireowrks display at Mount Rushmore.
Chart from GAO report breaking down costs of the 2020 fireowrks display at Mount Rushmore.(Government Accountability Office)

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