What is the best part about a small town on the 4th of July? The memories you’ll make will last a lifetime! Some of our favorite smaller communities in the Black Hills for celebrating America’s independence are right here.
John Mellencamp sang about the virtues of small town life on his 1985 album Scarecrow. To those who grew up in big cities or the suburbs, his lyrics evoked a sense of nostalgia for a lifestyle they could only imagine. But for generations of South Dakotans, “those small communities” aren’t just lyrics in a rock ‘n roll song: they’re a way of life, one that few would ever consider trading in.
Small towns foster a sense of community like no other place, and that is especially true during holidays. If you have been fortunate enough to celebrate the 4th of July in one of the small towns scattered across the Black Hills, you know it’s an experience unlike any other. From patriotic parades down Main Street and live music in shade-lined parks to picnics featuring everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to hefty slices of tasty homemade pie, capped off by dazzling fireworks displays, there is nothing quite like a small town Independence Day. Sure, bigger cities have bigger budgets, but that just means bigger crowds. We’ll take chatting with familiar faces and Midwest friendliness over jockeying for a parking space and straining to see the fireworks when you’re elbow to elbow with crowds of strangers. If we sound biased, we freely admit it!
The Black Hills are full of communities that take great pride in America and pull out all the stops to celebrate our nation’s independence. Whether you’re in the northern, central, or southern Hills, you’re sure to find that celebratory spirit!
Though the population of Piedmont barely exceeds 200 people, this tiny burg situated along Interstate 90 between Rapid City and Sturgis pulls out all the stops for their annual 4th of July Celebration. Festivities kick off with a themed parade, organized and sponsored by Piedmont Valley American Legion Post 311; it’s one of the largest parades in the state and draws families from throughout the region. Afterward, Piedmont City Park offers concessions, games, music, dancing, and displays, often featuring hot rods and antique cars. Once dusk settles, fireworks begin at The Barn. Not only are you guaranteed a fun time, but all proceeds support the Piedmont Fire Department’s fireworks fund and other community events and activities.
The geographical center of the nation is also ground zero for one of the best Independence Day celebrations in the Black Hills. The highlight is unquestionably the Black Hills Roundup, one of the oldest continuously operating rodeos in America. The annual event takes place for six days surrounding the 4th of July holiday weekend and attracts crowds of all ages, who thrill over watching cowboys and cowgirls compete in barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, and other events. It’s an authentic western experience that has been delighting audiences for over 100 years. Topping it all off is a fantastic fireworks show.
Lead’s storied history as a mining community will never be forgotten, and its annual Gold Camp Jubilee Days 4th of July celebration pays homage to the town’s past while looking toward the future. Dating all the way back to 1926, the multi-day event features a parade that begins in Deadwood and culminates at the high school and a wide variety of activities perfect for people of all ages, many of which take place in Manuel Brothers Park. Attendees can participate in horseshoe and volleyball tournaments, enjoy live music, take a mine tour, enjoy tasty refreshments like cupcakes and lemonade, watch a B-1 flyover, pick up a treat from the popular pie social, and lots more. The main draw is the largest fireworks show in the Black Hills, which takes place over the Open Cut. (NOTE: The festival has been postponed until September 2020; call the Chamber for fireworks information.)
Fireworks are returning to Mount Rushmore for the first time in more than a decade this year. A staple at the monument from 1998 to 2009, they were suspended over environmental concerns but with stringent safety practices in effect, organizers have been given the green light this year. There are few sights more patriotic than colorful fireworks bursting over stone carvings of four of the nation’s most-respected presidents; it’s truly a memorable event for all who participate. This year’s show is scheduled for the night of July 3, but final details are still being worked out. If you’re interested in attending, please check the National Parks Service website or follow Mount Rushmore’s Facebook page for updates.
Written by Mark Petruska Photos by Jesse Brown Nelson
COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some events may be postponed, canceled, or subject to limited attendance and other social distancing guidelines. Please check with individual communities for the latest updates before making plans.