A lifetime of Sunrise Services: the resurrection

Leslie Silverman
This is a seven-part series exploring the rich history of the Easter Sunrise Service at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, as the tradition will celebrate its 75th year on April 9.
The 1970s  newspaper headlines echo themes similar to today’s. The April 23, 1973, Rapid City Daily Journal, still only  10 cents, touted “Gunman’s Spree Leaves Six Dead, 10 Wounded in LA,” “Seven Killed in Texas Gas Explosion,” “Court to Decide if Non-Reservation Indians Eligible for Welfare Benefits.” 
It was a time of increased crime and high inflation as indicated by a news article that the Bank of America prime interest rate was moving to 8 percent.
Perhaps it was this uncertainty and insecurity that  prompted Rev. Sam Cushing to revive the Easter Sunrise Service at Mount Rushmore National Memorial after a three-year hiatus. 
Cushing relied on more National Park Service (NPS)  involvement as indicated by the March 25 preview of the service that year that read “Sponsored by the Hills and Plains Parish of the United Church of Christ with special assistance and cooperation of the National Park Service.” Joining Keystone and Hermosa were Scenic and New Underwood. A special 50-voice choir performed that year as well.  
The active involvement of the NPS continues as was noted in the April 2, 1972 service advertisement. 
“Members of the Mount Rushmore staff are coordinating arrangements for the service.”
The service was held at 6 a,m, on the deck of the Mount Rushmore visitor center. Cushing spoke about the victory of Christ’s Easter resurrection.
The 1978 March 26 sunrise bulletin is crafted with flowers. It signals a marked change in the bulletin’s appearance that would continue for the next several years and begin to develop into not only perspective on the Easter service but also on the community at large. The bulletin also thanks personnel at Mount Rushmore and Lois Halley, noting Halley’s extensive involvement in the service as accompanist and musical arranger.
Also in 1978, The Hills Parish consisting of Keystone, Hermosa and Fairburn, began hosting services. Fairburn left the parish in 1997 while Keystone and Hermosa continue to share a 50-year affiliation of hosting the Easter service.
The April 14, 1979, Rapid City Daily Journal advertises the sunrise service with a huge error indicating the sunrise service had been held at Mount Rushmore since the 1920s.  It is unclear whether the mistake was typographical or perhaps hyperbole, as the Easter service had in fact become a staple tradition in the community for decades.
The service began at 6:30 a.m. and featured trumpet fanfare by Al Anderson, Debbie Alexander and Jackie Griffin. Breakfast provided by the Ladies Aid of Keystone was held at the Masonic Hall, located  at the end of Swanzey Street past the present day Comfort Inn.
Join us next week as we continue to explore the Easter Sunrise Service at Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the decades of the music and sound. A special thanks to Historian Eileen Roggenthen from the  First Congregational Church of Keystone for the historical preservation and collection of documents, pictures, and stories.

User login