For the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, Memorial Day Weekend and the onset of June marked both the beginning of the summer tourist season and the continuation of the non-profit Foundation’s efforts to create the largest statue on the planet.
Included in the celebration was the display of a new Case CX240 excavator, which will be used, along with precision blasting and other earthmoving equipment, to reveal the sculpture of the legendary Oglala Sioux chief.
Begun approximately 60 years ago, the project involves carving a 641 by 563-ft. statue-in-the-round out of a solid granite mountain located in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, 17 mi. southwest of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Visitors, Donors Help Support Construction
Construction of the Crazy Horse statue is a privately-funded project. As part of the fundraising, the Foundation hosts events throughout the summer months, beginning with its annual Memorial Day weekend open house.
This year’s Memorial Day event included the return of Native American and other guest artists and crafts people, who displayed their work in the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational & Cultural Center, located at the Crazy Horse site.
The highlight of the weekend was an explosive blast on the enormous mountain carving that sent a cloud of dust and rocks into the air. Precision blasting with detonating cord is necessary to safely shape and remove rock to within 20 ft. of the final statue.
Case Excavator Arrives for Open House
A Case CX240 excavator, which arrived in time for public display over the Memorial Day weekend, drew the attention of visitors as they passed through the entrance to the Crazy Horse site. Case Construction Equipment and its financing arm, CNH Capital, donated a significant portion of the cost of the Case CX240 excavator, which joins a Case 9010B excavator, a Case donation to the foundation in 2001.
The new Case excavator will allow the foundation to work faster and more efficiently on the larger sections being blasted out of the mountain during the current phase of the work, which involves carving the 219-ft.-high horse’s head out of the mountain one section at a time, working downward.
After each blast, one of the two Case excavators, along with two crawler dozers in the foundation’s fleet, clears away the blast area by removing loose rock and depositing it over the side of the mountain for later removal from the site.
“The CX240 is a larger machine that can move more material and reach farther than our Case 9010B. It’s a very powerful tool,” said Kevin Hachmeister, who heads engineering of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. “We’re grateful to Case and CNH Capital for helping to make this machine available to us.”
Light Display Dazzles Visitors
Memorial Day weekend also marked the return of the popular “Legends in Light” multimedia laser-light show at the Memorial.
The laser-light show, which honors Native Americans, effectively turns the 500-ft. mountainside into the world’s largest screen, with the use of lasers, giant slides, animation and special colored lighting effects, all choreographed to music.
Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski designed the statue and began work in 1947 at the age of 40. He died in 1982 but passed his vision on to his widow, Ruth Ziolkowski and their children (seven of the 10 are active at the Memorial), as well as the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The Memorial is a nonprofit, educational and cultural project honoring Native Americans.
Crazy Horse not only raises support for itself, but it also gives back to the region from which it draws many of its visitors. Residents from South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska were admitted free to the annual open house; however, the foundation suggested a donation of two cans of food per person. The Foundation turned the 2,880 lbs. of food over to the Rapid City, SD-based KOTA Care and Share Food Drive.
The 58th anniversary of the first blast on the mountain occurred on June 3, 2006.