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How A Big Idea Created A Monumental Experience

Believe it or not, Rapid City was not always the City of Presidents. 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. So, when a local art museum put a statue of President Lincoln outside their shop people began to interact with it. They would stand back and enjoy it or take photos with it. A business man, Don Perdue, took notice and he thought up the idea to put a president on every corner.  

This project didn't happen overnight. Many talked about it but it took a while for it to get 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 jump started big growth for Downtown Rapid City.

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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.

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The City of Presidents is ongoing with plenty of room 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, clothing and tiny details found in each statue. After they have their concept and it is approved work can begin. After the prep work, it takes up to nine months for one statue to be created. 

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When the presidents started gaining popularity it became apparent that the city needed a place for visitors to learn more. So, the City of Presidents information center, located on Main Street, opened. There you will find smaller statues of the presidents, memorabilia and books about the lives of our past commanders in chief. Everything in the information center is for sale and it helps to fund the project. 

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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 many fantastic shops.

The presidents are a great learning opportunity for kids and they are made to accommodate photos. Get a picture with every single one. For an interactive guide to the City of Presidents click here!

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Meet the Author

Anne Orban

Anne was born and raised in the Rushmore State and is so glad to call a place with so much beauty home. After spending a few short years away in college, she is happy to be back in the place she loves most, Rapid City.  

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Anne Orban
Social Media and Content Developer

Anne was born and raised in the Rushmore State and is so glad to call a place with so much beauty home. After spending a few short years away in college, she is happy to be back in the place she loves most, Rapid City.  

Anne tries to live her life authentically documenting everything with her trusty Nikon D5200. She can often be found writing in coffee shops, on a new hiking trail with friends, or walking her beagle in any of the parks around town. As a perpetual wanderlust, Anne has taken a few road trips and plans on taking many more. Her favorite past time is playing tourist in her own back yard and finding hidden treasures in the Black Hills.

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