Crazy Horse has a blast on Korczak Day
A blast of 700 tons of rock seemed to barely make a dent Tuesday in the colossal Crazy Horse Memorial sculpture. But it has been blast by blast for the past 64 years that the chief’s image emerged from the mountain, and this blast, 320 feet below the top of the sculpture, continued to thin out rock around what will someday be the horse’s head.
A crowd of about 100 Crazy Horse staff and visitors witnessed the blast as part of the celebration of “Korczak Day” on Tuesday, the honorary name the state Legislature gave in 1983 to May 3, the anniversary of the day in 1947 when sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski arrived in South Dakota.
The event is the first in a summer of activities planned at the memorial, including the June 3 formal start to work to finish Crazy Horse’s outstretched left hand.
Among the crowd was a busload of fourth-graders on a field trip from Timber Lake. They left home at 5 a.m. for a tour of the Black Hills that was part of their studies of figures from South Dakota history, including Crazy Horse, Casey Tibbs and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
When the blast was over, the class lined up for a group photo, their teacher getting them to say “1, 2, 3 Crazy Horse” and smile in unison.
“I thought it was cool,” said 10-year-old J.D. Enright, who researched Gen. George Armstrong Custer for the class project.
Ziolkowski died in 1982 but his wife, Ruth, and most of their 10 children continue to work on the mountain carving and associated visitor center, museum and university center.
Mountain crew foreman Cas Ziolkowski triggered the blast at 11 a.m. Tuesday, sending a mushrooming cloud of dust over the outline of the horse’s head and into the clear spring sky.
By the end of the summer, visitors will see more progress around the horse’s head and will be able to see the outline of its face all the way down to its nostril, a spot currently buried in rubble.
The memorial will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of its dedication on June 3, the kickoff of the annual Volksmarch weekend in which thousands of people hike to the top of the sculpture. That same day, carvers will start to finish the detailing of Crazy Horse’s hand.
Work on the hand comes after more than two years of technical engineering studies of the mountain to determine what changes are needed to be made to Ziolkowski’s original plans to accommodate the weight of the sculpture and natural cracks in the stone.
Those changes will include expansion of the horse’s mane to better support Crazy Horse’s arm.
The scientific review and the progress on the horse’s head are funded through a $5 million matching grant challenge from Sioux Falls philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. Visitors so far have responded with more than $4 million in gifts since the match was announced in 2007.
The advancements are one reason for growth in visitation in the past few years, and monument officials are expecting another busy season this summer.
Also, this is the second summer session of classes through the new Indian University of North American, a joint project between the memorial and the University of South Dakota. There will be 32 students living, learning and working at the memorial this summer, up from 20 last year.
Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.