Friday, August 15

Friday morning we climbed in the minivan and headed back toward the Black Hills of South Dakota since we wouldn't be attending any activities at the convention until the grand public display later that night.

We spent many pleasant hours driving the scenic routes around Mount Rushmore. With Mark aboard, the wildlife sightings went way up and we saw: buffalo roaming, deer and antelope eating, wild turkeys, chipmunks, wolf/coyote/dog and wild burros. Mark even spotted a white owl that none of the rest of us managed to see.

You can see Mount Rushmore between Mark and Kurt in the above picture if you click on the image to see the enlargement. We had a pleasant day meandering about little towns. We managed to have some decent German food and take in a few shops and museums. We arrived back in Gillette just before the sun began to set.

Later that evening, we headed back to the Cam-Plex for one last time to watch the 2 hour plus closing ceremony fireworks extravaganza. There were several segments before the choreographed shows: the burning of a 4 million firecracker super string, a 21 gun salute for deceased members (those salutes shake you to the very core - they're awesome) and special shells made by convention members. That was all just a warm up for the 45 minutes of solid fireworks that followed.

Below is an image of the final shell, and rightfully so: it was a 24"er! It's pretty rare to see a 24" shell fired, actually. I snapped this picture after the first break - if you can imagine it, there were two more sets of effects that unfolded after this one. The star shape underneath is the second stage, just about to burst. It was mighty impressive, and I have to say, the perfect way to finish up the weeks fiery festivities.

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