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Crazy Horse model completed; Public invited to see the exhibit next week

Rollie Noem, chief operating officer of the Crazy Horse Memorial, far right, speaks to Monique Ziolkowski, daughter of Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, far left, and Bemidji State University-Northwest Technical College students Vince Houser, Johnathan Grace and Anthony Milano. Through NTC's model-making program, the students helped build a three-dimensional model of the Crazy Horse campus located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Within the walls of Bemidji State University's Bridgeman Hall is an item about to become a piece of South Dakota history.

After one year in the making, five students at Northwest Technical College have completed a three-dimensional scale model of the Crazy Horse Memorial grounds located near Custer, S.D. It will be placed inside the actual Crazy Horse visitor center this summer.

The public is invited to view the model from 1-4 p.m. Thursday, May 5, in the design technology wing of Bridgeman Hall.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota being carved to show Crazy Horse, a Lakota Indian warrior, riding a horse and pointing straight ahead into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to be sculpted by the late Korczak Ziolkowski, who arrived in the Black Hills on May 3, 1947, to begin work.

Today, Crazy Horse's face and his pointing finger are all that have been carved, but this June the American Indian's hand will start to be carved. In the future, the Ziolkowski family hopes to also build a medical center and university on the grounds.

The 10-foot-by-16-foot model is big enough to fill the lane beneath a basketball hoop. It depicts what the Crazy Horse Memorial will look like once the mountain has been carved and buildings erected.

From the greened valleys and sanded mountains to the thousands of ponderosa pine tree replicas dimpling the landscape, almost every part of the model has been custom-built or meticulously put into place by the NTC design team. Even the sand-covered mountain is made from real rocks taken from the actual Crazy Horse grounds.

The dimension of the model was designed based on a bronze sculpture worth about $30,000 that was loaned to the NTC design team by Ruth Ziolkowski, Korczak Ziolkowski's wife.

"The last few weekends we've put in 30 hours a weekend finishing the model," said NTC instructor Lyle Meulebroeck.

Next week a semitrailer will arrive at BSU to pick up the model and transport it more than 750 miles to the Black Hills of South Dakota. After it arrives, the NTC design team plans to be there to make final adjustments to the model and to witness the unveiling.

For student Vince Houser, the most challenging part of building the model came after poking 3,000 trees in the model and learning it would take 3,000 more trees to finish the job. But traveling to the Crazy Horse grounds last year was worth it, he said.

Student Johnathan Grace said his favorite part of the model was sanding the foam.

"We started out with chisels and hand tools, but by the end we got to work with belt sanders and hand sanders," Grace said. "It was fun."

Student Anthony Milano said it was sometimes difficult having to make certain decisions on how to transform the landscape of the model.

"We have a rendering which we based everything off of," he said. "But sometimes we had to ask, 'Would this look good?' Then we'd talk about it."

"I am proud of what we did," Grace said. "The elevation and topography is pretty accurate."

Students Eric Meulebroeck and Kyle Liesenfeld also participated in building the model.

Monique Ziolkowski, daughter of Ruth and Korczak Ziolkowski, was at BSU Tuesday morning to see the model for the first time.

"I'm still taking it in," she said. "This is something I've thought about my whole life. I was raised with this vision."

Monique said she was most impressed by how professional the students and instructors were last year when they came to Crazy Horse to pitch their idea of making the model and donating it to the memorial.

"You could tell by the way they acted and their mannerisms that they knew what they are doing," she said. "I'd seen some of their work on other projects. You knew it was going to be a nice job."

Rollie Noem, chief operating officer at Crazy Horse, was also at NTC Tuesday. He too was pleased with how the model turned out.

"When you think about the distance involved and having no previous relationship with the school, and to have this connection develop, it really is amazing," he said.

Noem talked about the connection the students and instructors made with the Ziolkowski family when they visited last year.

"The connection between the students and the family - you could just see it," he said. "There are some people who want to use something to benefit themselves. But Ruth recognized right away they were in it for the right reasons.

"I think Ruth will have a big smile on her face when she sees it, and she'll say 'oh my,'" Noem added.

The existing model at Crazy Horse will be kept as a piece of historical significance but placed in another area of the grounds, Noem said. The NTC students' model will be placed in the welcome center.

"This will be featured prominently," Noem said. "Everyone that comes to Crazy Horse will see this. It will be seen by millions of people. People will gravitate toward this. This will help millions of people better understand the project."

Bruce Hemstad, dean of academic and co-curricular affairs at NTC, played a part in connecting the students in the NTC model-making program with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Board of Directors. He said the alignment between BSU and NTC helped give the students a better opportunity to follow through with the project.

"Through the alignment, we brought the program to the university, which had more room," he said. "The students, having had the opportunity to go out and see the monument and understand the history and then having to go back and build the replica - it's really amazing."