Keystone packed for show

Gray Hughes

On a given Fourth of July weekend, the town of Keystone can expect to see an influx of people.

But this year was different.

Fireworks were being held at Mount Rushmore National Memorial for the first time in over a decade with President Donald Trump and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in attendance, and the already busy summer tourism town was packed to the gills.

“It's just a good day to celebrate America,” said Brad Johnson, who made the trek out to the Black Hills from California.

Johnson was not one of the people who received a ticket to watch the fireworks at Mount Rushmore; however, seeing the monument was on his bucket list. He planned on going to the monument on July 4.

“July 4, anyway, was the day we declared our freedom from Great Britain,” he said.

It was hot the afternoon of July 3 with the mercury in the thermometer pushing near 90 degrees around 2 p.m., but that did not slow down the crowds.

Throughout Keystone, the sidewalks were packed with people, many of whom were wearing some sort of Trump paraphernalia. Many of those, too, who were able to receive tickets to watch the fireworks at Mount Rushmore were wearing their ticket lanyards proudly around their neck.

As it was a hot day, there were many people selling water and other beverages such as Gatorade along the side of the road. Mike Prenkratz was one of them.

“So far it’s been pretty calm,” he said. “Everyone is in a good mood and happy to be here.”

Other vendors were in town, too, including some organizations that were hoping to catch the ear — or eye — of the president.

Brett Kenzy of Gregory was in Keystone representing R-Calf USA, which describes itself as the largest national cattle organization that represents only cattle producers within the United States.

Kenzy said he has seen and talked to a diverse group of people including people from Boston, Mass., Idaho and Utah. He said he and his organization were there to help push for country-of-origin labeling on beef products.

“We thought with the president coming we could get his attention,” he said.

In Keystone during the summer, parking can sometimes be an issue. Most lots in Keystone had some sort of fee needed in order to park there.

The Keystone Area Historical Society and Keystone Senior Center joined together and were offering parking options for people coming to the town.

Jon Veltmann, president of both the senior center and historical society, said while the town may be crowded, their business as of 1:45 p.m. on July 3 was slow.

He said he and a couple of other people had been out since 6:30 a.m. the morning of July 3, and only about five cars had parked in the lots run by his organizations; however, many of the parkers were donating more than just the standard $10 to park a car and $20 to park an RV. One man who came in on a tractor, he said, donated $50.

Since his people could not work more than 12 hours at a time, when it came time for him to leave Veltman said he was going to put up a donation jar.

Veltman attributed the slow morning to two things.

“The signs that were put out by the (South Dakota Department of Transportation) saying Mount Rushmore was closed (July 3) may have slowed some people down,” he said. “Also the rumors of protestors.”

For the story on the protests, please see Sheriff: 21 charged in connection to Mount Rushmore protests

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