Crazy Horse night blast a crowd pleaser
The program is among the Memorial’s most popular special events. This year’s gathering overflowed paved and graveled parking areas and filled grassy openings stretching to the Memorial’s entrance nearly a mile away along Highway 16/385.
The throngs came for the pyrotechnic extravaganza that featured 136 fiery bursts across the world’s largest sculpture in progress. The resounding detonations count the number of years since the June 1876 Battle of the Little Big Horn that pitted Lakota legend Crazy Horse and hundreds of Plains Indian warriors against attacking U.S. troops commanded by Lt. Col. George Custer.
The night blast also honored Memorial President-CEO Ruth Ziolkowski on her 86th birthday. She moved to the site with friends from Connecticut 65 years ago to help sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski.
“Just looking at how far out they had their cars, we had way more parking to handle than we did during the Volksmarch, which drew over 11,600 people in two days,” Mrs. Ziolkowski said, comparing the turnout to the yearly hike to the mountain in early June. “In some places, the cars were so close together the shuttle buses couldn’t get through.”
Despite parking challenges and heat that broke the 100-degree benchmark around the region, the mood of the large crowd was festive in a calm, cool evening, Mrs. Ziolkowski said.
“We had people from Turkey, England and Ireland, and that’s just the small percentage of the crowd I got to speak with. It was fun to find out there were so many here who share the same birthday. And the large number of American Indian people who attended made me feel really good,” she said. Media included a five-man crew recording the event for a future program for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that reaches 10 million households throughout Canada.
“Everyone was so happy. It was just a nice, nice group of people,” Mrs. Ziolkowski said.
And generous. Financial support for the KOTA Care & Share Food Drive nearly doubled from a year ago, jumping from $3,784.26 to $7,184.26. Food gifts jumped nearly 7 percent, rising from 2,905 pounds last year to 3,105 pounds given this year for the Feeding South Dakota food bank in Rapid City.
“That’s the nicest thing about having a birthday, that’s for sure,” she said.