The Badlands of South Dakota is a magnificent place that changes dramatically with the setting sun. As the sun goes down and its rays become filtered by the atmosphere; it does a color-changing act that would make a chameleon jealous. The yellows, reds and oranges of the soil and clouds become accentuated and the eyes are greeted with a relaxing pallet of warm pastels. Then the stars take over and do their own tricks as the night sky darkens.
Since the Badlands are virtually free of air pollution and man-made lights, the night sky is a marvel of darkness and clarity. The stars, planets and constellation are free to be themselves and display their beauty without the distractions of human interference. Some of the stars have familiar names such as: Polaris, Arcturus, Deneb, Castor & Pollux. Many are double-stars orbiting each other and some lights in the night sky are other galaxies like our own Milky Way.
While pondering the spectacle and meaning of it all, I was recently reminded of another star, a different kind of star, that I recently encountered.
As a custom tour provider I sometimes get clients that are genuine celebrities and nationally known figures. Recently I picked one up at the Rapid City, SD Regional Airport for a weekend of sightseeing. She was accompanied by her 12 year old grandson, his friend and her assistant. That evening we went to Mount Rushmore National Memorial for the Evening Lighting Ceremony. The ceremony is held in a large outdoor amphitheater and is at the mercy of the weather. The evening weather in the Black Hills is usually quite wonderful with mild temperatures, low humidity and a sky full of light breezes and shining stars. That evening was the rare exception and there would be no stars… or so I thought. The weather that night was a light rain that showed the promise of ending soon, so we braved the elements and the crowd to watch the ceremony.
My guest that evening is an established icon of American comedy and fashion who was instantly recognized by the crowd waiting for the ceremony to begin. How she would handle the situation concerned me at first, but not for long. What happened next was a dazzling display of how a celebrity can use their fame and charisma to bring joy to others. Quite frankly, she exceeded all of my expectations and it was a wonderful experience. As people flocked to her for pictures and a moment of her time she made each of them feel important and worthy of her time and attention. Occasionally someone would approach her and tell of a relative who had a problem walking and she would make the extra effort to go to them and spend time with them and wish them well. Time after time she set an example of kindness and generosity toward all.
On that overcast and drizzly night there was at least one star shining at Mount Rushmore and her name is Joan Rivers. May she rest in peace.
Thanks for that beautiful story of star-gazing in South Dakota, John. Anyone travellers headed to John's part of the U.S. (celebrities or otherwise!) are invited to contact him through his ToursByLocals guide page for their own customized tour.