Dan Senftner felt something was missing in the community during the Fourth of July holiday.
"After the Heritage Festival stopped, there was nothing left for people to really do in town, so we are picking up the ball on this," said Senftner, chief executive officer of Destination Rapid City.
In the absence of the Black Hills Heritage Festival, Destination Rapid City and the Rapid City Downtown Association are joining together to salute the Fourth of July and members of the armed forces with a festival and fireworks.
Sandra Schwan, president of the Rapid City Downtown Association, said this celebration will be different from previous festivals. Unlike the Heritage Festival, which celebrated different cultures, this year's event will be a tribute to soldiers who continually fight to preserve the freedom of the United States, she said.
"We really wanted the focus to be on the soldiers this year and have a patriotic flair," Schwan said. "The Boy and Girl Scouts will be down there, too, so people can buy cookies and other things that will be shipped to those soldiers who are still oversees."
In coming years, the group plans for the one-day event to link up with activities at Main Street Square, but this year, it will begin at 1 p.m. July 4 in Memorial Park, Senftner said.
"We're seeing how things go this year and what kind of turnout we get," he said. "We expect a good turnout, so as it grows we will definitely feature things in both Main Street Square and Memorial Park. For sure, Main Street Square will be used for something next year; we just don't know for what, exactly, yet."
Activities are planned throughout the day and include a guided tour through Main Street Square to view the process of construction, children's games, a fallen soldiers banner display, a B-1B Lancer bomber flyover, food vendors, music performed by Night Wind and Pumpin' Ethel and fireworks, Senftner said.
The groups plan to spend $30,000 this year on fireworks, and should be three times the size of last year's show, Senftner said.
"Fireworks are what many people enjoy most about the Fourth, so we really beefed it up this year," he said. "We found out Mount Rushmore wasn't having them, so we made ours bigger than ever. It's going to be amazing."
Blaine Kortemeyer, deputy director of interpretation and education at Mount Rushmore National Park, said Mount Rushmore will not have a fireworks display because of potential fire danger from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle infestation.
The Heritage Festival had been a popular event in years past, but in 2009, rain and cool temperatures affected attendance, and the festival didn't make a profit that year. A reduction in available grant funding left the organizers unable to pay all of the bills, and festival organizers said it would take a "hiatus" for the summer of 2010.
The absence left a noticeable lack events for the Fourth in Rapid City.
"We wanted to give the community something they could enjoy with their friends and family," Senftner said. "It'll be a great time for everyone."
"We've got a lot of great things lined up, so we're excited to make this festival a yearly event for every Fourth of July," he said.
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