Rapid City, South Dakota
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Rapid City Business Signs
Before interference by the United States, the area of South Dakota, which would one day become Rapid City, was inhabited by the Cheyenne peoples. The Cheyenne were subsequently taken over by the Lakota in 1776. In fact, the Lakota name for the area roughly translates to “Swift Water City.” The city would later be named after Rapid Creek, which it was established over.
When gold was discovered in the nearby Black Hills in 1874 by the Custer Expedition, a mass influx of settlers descended upon the area. In 1876, a group of unsuccessful miners founded “Hay Camp” (Rapid City’s first name), and gave it the nickname “Gateway to the Black Hills.” Rapid City would officially be incorporated in February of 1883.
Today, according to a 2015 estimate by the US Census Bureau, the population of Rapid City is 73,569. This makes it the second most populous city in the state of South Dakota after Sioux Falls. It also makes Rapid City the 471st most populous city in the United States. Rapid City is the seat of Pennington County. The Rapid City metropolitan area, according to that same census bureau estimate, has a population of 144,134 people. This makes it the 285th most populous metropolitan area in the country.
Rapid City is home to a number of prominent businesses and is a hub for several industries. These business locations include the Portland Cement Plant, Black Hills Ammunition, Black Hills gold jewelry, and the Rapid City Regional Hospital Healthcare System. The two largest industries in the area, however, are without question the military and tourism industries.
In fact, Rapid City is home to two military bases. These include Camp Rapid, which is a South Dakota Army National Guard installation. Camp Rapid was established in the early 20th century. The other main reason for the heavy military presence in Rapid City is the Ellsworth Air Force Base. Ellsworth Air Force Base, which was built in 1942, is part of Global Strike Command (GSC) and garrisons the 28th Bomb Wing. In 2000, 4,165 people in total (including non-military personnel) resided in the base.
Rapid City is perhaps best known for its proximity to the Black Hills. The Black Hills, so named for how they appear in the distance when covered with trees, are a sacred landmark to the Cheyenne and Lakota peoples. In fact, the Black Hills became the center of these tribes’ cultures. Harney Peak, which is the tallest of the Black Hills, reaches 7,242 ft (2,207 m) into the air. Black Hills National Forest was established on February 22nd, 1897.
The Black Hills is also the location for Mount Rushmore. This national memorial features the carved faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. These presidents of the United States were conveniently carved into this sacred space of Native American life and culture. Mount Rushmore was established on March 3rd, 1925. It attracts 2,185,447 gawkers every year.
More fittingly, the Black Hills shall also be the home of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is under construction. This memorial, commissioned by Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear, is sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski, depicts Crazy Horse, the famed Oglala Lakota warrior. This memorial is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, a sacred Oglala Lakota site. It is located roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Crazy Horse Memorial has been in progress since 1948.
Rapid City is home to one professional sports team. The Rapid City Rush are an ice hockey team in the ECHL. The Rush are affilliated with NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. They play their home games in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The Rush have one division championship, one conference championship, and one Ray Miron President’s Cup to their names. Rapid City also hosts the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which was founded on August 14th, 1938, is considered to be one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. In 2015, it attracted 739,000 people.
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