Sept. 6 night blast wows crowd
To some, the fiery echoes from the Crazy Horse mountain carving sounded like a huge drum pounding out the heart beat of an entire nation.
Viewers, including visitors from 38 U.S. states from coast to coast, four Canadian provinces and from as far away as Australia, rated the annual September 6 night blast as “wonderful,” “spectacular,” “incredible,” “awesome” and “very awesome.”
The special event is dual tribute, honoring Lakota leader Crazy Horse on the day he died in 1877 and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski on his 1908 birth date. The pyrotechnical display does not blast granite from the carving, but does produce equally thunderous percussions as flammable canisters encircling the mountain are individually detonated.
The night show capped the four-day Labor Day weekend open house that saw guests contribute money and 4,821 pounds of food for the KOTA Care and Share Food Drive. Feeding South Dakota food bank director Monica Leitheiser of Rapid City said the total was 958 pounds shy of matching the entire collection at Crazy Horse during all of September 2009.
Boston-born Korczak Ziolkowski, once an abused orphan who became a noted self-taught artist, came to the Black Hills in 1947 at the request of Lakota elders. They watched Mount Rushmore evolve, and wanted a giant mountain monument to show “the red man has great heroes, also” family friend Fred Tully told the night blast crowd.
The developments on the mountain and visitor facility over the past 63 years “is amazing to me,” Memorial president and chief executive Ruth Ziolkowski told the near-capacity gathering.
Workers are now roughly shaping the horse’s head some 320 feet below the top of the completed face of Crazy Horse. The carving project yearly draws more than 1 million visitors, and many of them have helped provide more than $1 million in scholarships for Native Americans and aided efforts that saw students move into the new Living and Learning Center and take university classes this summer.
She said the results prove her late husband was right in predicting that Memorial supporters, by sticking to their goals and not quitting on them, can accomplish anything.
“It is thanks to all of you that we are here and we can continue to make progress,” she said. “We’re all very grateful.”