Visiting South Dakota: The Crazy Horse Memorial, A 10K Volksmarch and Starting New Family Traditions

Preparing for the 10k Volksmarch up the mountain
Preparing for the 10k Volksmarch up the mountain

By Joanna Mazewski, Taking the Kids Correspondent

My family has the usual holiday and birthday traditions that we celebrate yearly. But, I recently realized, it would be nice for us to have a “travel” tradition, too. Upon returning from my recent trip to South Dakota, I came up with an idea: why not bring my family to see the Crazy Horse Memorial every couple of years to see the changes in the carvings of the face, hand, or even an additional fingernail? After all, every little change in the memorial excites locals and visitors alike. Even the sight of a new crane above the sculpture gets the residents of the nearby town of Keystone delighted with excitement.

The Crazy Horse’s mountain carving has always been about family. During the 1940’s, Chief Standing Bear asked Korczak Ziolkowski, a well-known sculptor and an assist on the Mount Rushmore project, to build a monument honoring Crazy Horse.  And so, he began his work with a vision: to build a memorial that would be ten times the size of nearby Mount Rushmore.

Getting close to the main attraction
Getting close to the main attraction

Korczak along with his wife Ruth Ziolkowski had 10 children – 5 boys and 5 girls. After Korzcak passed away in 1982, Ruth took matters into her own hands as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. With the help of her children, they worked 365 days a year on the monument.

Today, the Crazy Horse dream has been handed to the next generation with 4 of the 10 children and several grandchildren working to continue the legacy of Chief Henry Standing Bear. Their father Korczak was also a talented teacher. He taught his family in every aspect of Crazy Horse, including mountain carving. The boys grew up helping their father on the mountain while the girls assisted their mother at the visitor complex.

On the weekend that I visited, the Crazy Horse Memorial celebrated the 34th bi-annual Volksmarch. Along with thousands of other volksmarchers, I made my way to the top after a 6.2-mile hike up the mountain. Our hike passed through forests and fields below the work-in-progress memorial and followed the same road used by construction vehicles up to the arm of the monument. This is where you can stand below the 8-story tall face of Crazy Horse.

Up close and personal with Crazy Horse
Up close and personal with Crazy Horse

During my hike up the mountain, I couldn’t help but wonder how Crazy Horse would change in about five or ten years time. I also thought it would be a great idea to bring my family along for my next trip to South Dakota just so we could witness all of the changes together. It could be our new family travel tradition, so to speak. After all, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a true testament to how one family is keeping a dream alive through dedication, hard work, and of course, careful and meticulous planning and operations.

Now whether or not my family and I do make it to Crazy Horse every give to ten years remains to be seen, but when I commit to do something, chances are I’ll do it. Plus, my family doesn’t need an excuse to take the next available flight and travel. Seeing the progress being made at the Crazy Horse Memorial will not only be exciting, but it will feel special, too. That’s because we will also get to see history in the making. Now, we might not be around for the completion of the memorial (scheduled to take place sometime in the next 60 to 70 years), but that we can leave it up to our family’s next generation of travelers to continue our little tradition.

Crazy Horse Memorial

12151 Avenue of the Chiefs

Crazy Horse, SD 57730

(605) 673-4681

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu
Close Panel

Family Travel
Guides for Every Season