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By Karen Hendricks, Gettysburg Festival PR/Marketing Director

How many of you are making “bucket lists” these days?  It seems like a popular topic for discussion, and it’s always fascinating to hear what sorts of activities and travel ideas pop up on these “lists of a lifetime.”

One of the trends I’ve noticed is that people often tend to list those iconic travel destinations such as the Statue of Liberty.  In New York City recently, our family felt compelled to visit Ground Zero.  The millions of tourists flocking to Gettysburg every year are drawn by the site of the Civil War’s most pivotal battle.  Plenty of western U.S. destinations are making bucket lists:  the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Mount Rushmore.

"The Presidents of Mount Rushmore"

Here at Gettysburg Festival, we’re gearing up for an amazing theater presentation at the June Festival titled “The Presidents of Mount Rushmore.”  We are thrilled to welcome perhaps the top four presidential portrayers in the entire country, bringing memorialized Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt to life.  These four extremely talented and knowledgeable men will send shivers down spines as they are “reincarnated” on the stage of the Majestic Theater to talk about their roles in U.S. history, their views on the Constitution and much more.  The audience will even have the chance to ask questions of these iconic American presidents.  For more on this June 17 event, including ticketing links, click here.

The creation of Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a colorful tale.  Standing 5,725 feet high, Mount Rushmore was named in 1885 for New York lawyer Charles E. Rushmore.  Historican Doane Robinson of South Dakota is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills in order to attract tourism. It was sculptor Gutzon Borglum who chose the four presidents as subjects because he said they represented the first 150 years of American history.  His plan was to immortalize their likenesses as close to heaven as possible, holding them up as fine examples of leaders.

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”  -Sculptor Gutzon Borglum 

Jim Foote as Theodore Roosevelt

The actual work began on October 4, 1927.  It was fourteen years later, and after many funding challenges, that the monument was completed in 1941.  It took a combined workforce of 400  men to complete the task. Today nearly three million visitors visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial annually.

According to the National Park Service’s website:

  • Washington, being our first president, represents the BIRTH of our country.
  • Jefferson symbolizes the EXPANSION of the nation, being credited with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Lincoln embodies the PRESERVATION of the nation in confronting the challenges of the Civil War.
  • Theodore Roosevelt represents the DEVELOPMENT of our country. He promoted construction of the Panama Canal.

Mount Rushmore, one of the largest forms of artwork in the entire world, was creating using an amazing system.  Borglum familiarized himself with life masks, painting, photographs and descriptions of the four presidents. He then created multiple models at a ratio of 1:12 which his workmen could use as guides. One inch on the model equaled one foot on the mountain.  Using the ratio guidelines, the workmen were able to determine how much rock to remove and where.  In fact, 90% of the heads were carved with dynamite.

Having an appreciation for the creation of this majestic monument, and the presidents it immortalizes certainly places it on my bucket list.  I hope to reach South Dakota one day, but in the meantime, I look forward to “meeting” the four presidents at Gettysburg Festival this June.  What better place to present “The Presidents of Mount Rushmore” than Gettysburg–gathering America’s most treasured icons of history in one of her most historic places.  Why not join us on June 17 and check a few items off your bucket list?

Dean Malissa as George Washington