President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore.
The event, which is expected to draw thousands, will not require people to wear masks or socially distance, even as coronavirus cases spike across the country.
Trump is expected to speak at the event, which has issued 7,500 tickets to watch fireworks that he says will be a ‘display like few people have seen.’
It is expected to cost around $600,000 with money spent on fire and environmental consulting services, a permit review, inspections and even portable toilets, reports TMZ.
Health experts are worried and one former park official says the event will ‘endanger public safety’ and it will be ‘extremely difficult’ to evacuate crowds if there is an emergency.
President Donald Trump is beginning Fourth of July weekend with a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore. Pictured: Fireworks over Mount Rushmore National Memorial, July 2004
Masks and social distancing will not be required, but people will be screened for coronavirus symptoms before they can enter. Pictured: Trump delivers remarks during a Spirit of America Showcase in the Entrance Hall of the White House, July 2
The president will likely enjoy a show of support, with the state Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump on the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt – the faces on the monument.
Republican Gov Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, has said social distancing won’t be required during the event and masks will be optional.
Event organizers will provide masks to anyone who wants them and plan to screen attendees for symptoms of COVID-19.
But concern about the coronavirus risk and wildfire danger from the fireworks, along with protests from Native American groups, will also greet the president.
‘We’re going to have thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder at these events,’ Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said.
‘Someone in line to see a president and being able to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore, they are probably not likely to disqualify themself because they developed a cough the day of or the day before.’
Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region also raised concerns that the event could lead to coronavirus outbreaks among their members, who they say are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of an underfunded health care system and chronic health conditions.
‘The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,’ said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
And Cheryl Schreier, superintendent of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 2010 to 2019, said the event is a public health hazard.
‘While such patriotic celebrations were memorable, they also endangered public safety and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources within the national park and surrounding area,’ she wrote in The Washington Post.
‘In case of emergency – wildfires started by the fireworks, medical emergencies or extreme weather events – evacuation of visitors could prove tremendously difficult.’
Health experts say the event could lead to a spike in cases, and put not only attendees but also workers at risk. Pictured: Visitors look at Mount Rushmore National Monument, July 2
About $600,000 is being spent on the display, including $350,000 for the actual fireworks and $3,500 on portable toilets. Pictured: Mike Harris, a retired over-the-road truck driver and registered Republican, shares his views about President Trump with motorists heading toward Mount Rushmore National Monument, July 2
Schrier said it’s not only the attendees that are at risk of contracting the virus but park employees too.
‘It will actually jeopardize the safety of park service employees, volunteers, concession workers, visitors and residents of the gateway communities,’ she wrote.
Security is expected to be tight, with the road leading up to Mount Rushmore shut down.
The governor’s spokesperson, Maggie Seidel, would not say whether the South Dakota National Guard was being deployed, but said organizers are making sure it is a safe event.
Fireworks were called off after 2009 because a mountain pine beetle infestation increased the fire risks.
Gov Noem pushed to get the fireworks resumed soon after she was elected, and enlisted Trump’s help.
The president brushed aside fire concerns earlier this year, saying; ‘What can burn? It’s stone.’
Trump made no mention of the fire danger in new comments on Thursday.
‘They used to do it many years ago, and for some reason they were unable or unallowed to do it,’ he said.
‘They just weren’t allowed to do it, and I opened it up and we’re going to have a tremendous July 3 and then we’re coming back here, celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, DC.’
According to documents obtained by TMZ, the fireworks display will cost a little less than $600,000.
An environmental consulting service called Ero Resources Corporation was paid $138,800 to work on the event
Security and screening will cost about $33,000 and another $30,000 is being spent for permit review and display inspection.
The National Fire Protection Association was paid $30,000 for code consultation and about $3,500 was spent on portable toilets.
For the actual display, Pyro Spectaculars was paid $350,00.