Crazy Horse Memorial
Equipped with only a sledge hammer, a single-jack drill bit and a box of dynamite, Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski went to work on June 3, 1948 creating his 563 by 641-foot sculpture of an Indian man atop a spirited warhorse. This would later be called Crazy Horse Memorial. He would spend the next 36 years of his life doggedly blasting away 7,400,000 tons of granite near Custer, South Dakota to rough out virtually the entire figure, in the round.
Now, 60 years after Korczak started carving, and his death in 1982, work still continues on the world’s largest sculpture. The dimensions are staggering. The mountain-sized statue is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper!
When Korczak died in 1982, the mountain showed only a vague hint of a horse and rider. Critics reckoned that the mountain had finally outlasted the man, just as they had predicted. But Korczak had passed along his vision and passion to his wife, Ruth, and their 10 sons and daughters. He left them three plan books and scale models showing how to continue his work.
His offspring understood the importance of the project; they had worked side-by-side on the mountain with their father; and they inherited his ferocious work ethic. Ruth Ziolkowski had always been a driving force at Crazy Horse, but mainly as director of the ever-expanding visitor complex and as hostess to more than a million visitors every year. Together, the wife and children brought forth a heroic face from the granite of the Black Hills during the decade of the 90s.
The 88-foot-high face of Crazy Horse was dedicated on June 3, 1998, 50 years to the day after Korczak’s first blast.
Work now focuses on the 219-foot-high horse’s head. Blocking out the 22-story high figure has surpassed the halfway mark. There’s a lot of excitement about witnessing Crazy Horse’s steed take shape as these cliff-hanging explosive experts work their fleet of drilling equipment. Down below, a new generation of visitors watches as a new generation of workers carry the Crazy Horse dream forward.
The story of Korczak and his mountain is told in the $1.6 million Crazy Horse Orientation and Communications Center.
Memorial includes a visitor's complex with viewing veranda, educational displays and a full-service restaurant; Indian Museum of North America; Native American Educational and Cultural Center; and Ziolkowski's log home and studio. Open year-round.
Events throughout the summer and fall include illuminating the mountain one hour past sundow;. "Legends of Light" laser-light show begins at dark nightly from Memorial Day through mid-October; a 10K Volksmarch hike to the out-stretched arm of Crazy Horse; Gift from Mother Earth Celebration of native and western art show and sale; Stampede Rodeo hosting both the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association (PRCA) events and the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association (GPIRA) events; ceremonial night blasts with pyrotechnically designed fireballs are traditionally held twice a year; a celebration of Native American Day with Native American dancers, artists, singers, storytellers and educational programs. Check out Crazy Horse Events for details.
Learn more about the Lakota Sioux Culture at Great Sioux Nation.
The sculpture and story of Korczak and his mountain is told in the $1.6 million Crazy Horse Orientation and Communications Center located four miles north of Custer on Hwy 385.
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