Three million visitors annually position Mount Rushmore as South Dakota’s top tourist attraction … it’s kinda a big deal around here, even if designated only as a National Memorial.
After paying the $10 parking “donation”, Kelly and filed onto the grounds Saturday night with thousands of others, all of us intent on catching the fading daylight hours and subsequent 9:30pm lighting ceremony.
We arrived about 90 minutes early, which allowed us plenty of time to explore. Similar to nearly every national park, monument, or memorial we’ve visited before, the areas adjacent to the visitor center and gift shop were jam-packed with people. But for those few of us venturing just a few minutes away from that madness, we quickly found ourselves mostly alone, quietly walking the broader memorial grounds.
It’s a shame to come to this place of Americana nationalism and not escape the crowd madness, for the surrounding national forest really is quite nice. There is a path rewarding those who take the time to sneak away multiple, up-close views of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
Eventually the sun faded and we were all kept in suspension for the presentation. Predictably, the lighting itself was unnecessarily hokey and a bit underwhelming. As to be expected I suppose.
My bigger compliant dealt with the ice cream shop frustratingly closing well in advance of the lighting ceremony – literally with armed park rangers stopping anyone from attempting to secure a tasty (and I’m guessing overpriced) double scoop waffle cone one minute past the 9pm closing. By contrast, the gift shop remained open until 11pm, providing those who found themselves waiting for the parking structure exiting chaos to diminish, ample shopping opportunity to purchase just about anything nobody actually needs.
The American consumerism culture on full display. I cannot imagine this national memorial would have it any other way.