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How A Big Idea Created A Monumental Experience

After 25 magnificent years in Rapid City, Anne traded the Black Hills for some of the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains. While she loves high altitude living she misses all the must see's, hidden gems, and food back home. Together with her dogs Honey and Nora, she tries to travel as much as possible and explore the hidden wonders where ever she is.

March 16, 2020

Believe it or not, Rapid City was not always the City of Presidents, and Downtown Rapid City was not the must-see destination it is today. There were a few things to do and see but the corners were empty, there was no Art Alley, and Main Street Square was a parking lot. But, when a local man noticed people interacting with a temporarily placed statue of President Lincoln outside the Hotel Alex Johnson, an idea sparked. This man was Don Perdue, and he thought up the idea to put a president on every corner in Downtown Rapid City.

Father and Daughter Next to City of President Statue
City of Presidents Statue

This project didn't happen overnight. It took a lot of convincing, a lot of fundraising, and many people talking about it before it started. In 1999, Perdue proposed the idea to the city as a way to honor the legacy of the American Presidency. The project was approved and in 2000 the first four presidents were unveiled and placed Downtown. The City of Presidents was born, and it jump-started big growth for Downtown Rapid City.

Each year four new statues were funded, commissioned and placed downtown. Eventually, the presidents started gaining popularity with locals and visitors. Locals even started giving directions using the presidents as landmarks. For instance, I’ll meet you by Ronald Reagan means I’ll meet you at Tally's Silver Spoon. Tourists loved walking through town finding their favorites and taking photos. Soon, Downtown Rapid City became a must stop destination. In 2010 the four remaining presidents were placed and it was decided that new presidents would not be placed until they left office.

President Statue at Main Street Square Downtown Rapid City
President Statue at Main Street Square

The City of Presidents is ongoing with plenty of room to grow for when new presidents leave office. But these new statues won’t be placed right away. The project is privately funded so they have to get funding and select an artist. Once these tasks are completed the artist researches the president. They learn their passions, hobbies or achievements during their presidency. Specifics which help to decide on the pose, facial expression, clothing and tiny details found in each statue. After they have their concept and it's approved by the City of Presidents Board, work can begin. After the prep work, it can take up to nine months for one statue to be created.

Fun fact: all the statues match the height and weight of the president except one. William Howard Taft's statue was trimmed down from the presidents actual weight to make the amount of bronze needed for the statue more affordable.

City of Presidents Statue Downtown Rapid City
City of Presidents Statue Downtown

The City of Presidents is just one example of the big things on display downtown. New restaurants, shops, art and events are always popping up. Which means you can take the walking tour and experience interactive fountains, annual events, dining options, Art Alley and so much more.

The presidents are a great learning opportunity for kids and they are made to accommodate photos. Get a picture with every single one and share them on social media tagging #VisitRapidCity.